Mechanisms of Alkene and Diene Hydrogenation Reactions in H-MFI and H-CHA Zeolite Frameworks During MTO
Co-feeding H2 at high pressures increases zeolite catalyst lifetimes during methanol-to-olefin (MTO) reactions while maintaining high alkene-to-alkane ratios; however, the mechanisms and species hydrogenated by H2 co-feeds to prevent catalyst deactivation remain unknown. This study uses periodic density functional theory (DFT) to examine hydrogenation mechanisms of MTO product C2–C4 alkenes, as well as species related to the deactivation of MTO catalysts such as C4 and C6 dienes, benzene, and formaldehyde in H-MFI and H-CHA zeolite catalysts. Results show that dienes and formaldehyde are selectively hydrogenated in both frameworks at MTO conditions because their hydrogenation transition states proceed via allylic and oxocarbenium cations which are more stable than alkylcarbenium ions which mediate alkene hydrogenation. Diene hydrogenation is further stabilized by protonation and hydridation at α,δ positioned C-atoms to form 2-butene from butadiene and 3-hexene from hexadiene as primary hydrogenation products. This α,δ-hydrogenation directly leads to selective hydrogenation of dienes; pathways which hydrogenate dienes at the α,β-position (e.g., forming 1-butene from butadiene) proceed with barriers 20 kJ mol-1 higher than α,δ-hydrogenation and with barriers nearly equivalent to butene hydrogenation, despite α,β-hydrogenation of butadiene also occurring through allylic carbocations. Hydrogenation of formaldehyde, a diene precursor, occurs with barriers that are within 15 kJ mol-1 of diene hydrogenation barriers, indicating that it may also contribute to increasing catalyst lifetimes by preventing diene formation. Benzene, in contrast to dienes and formaldehyde, is hydrogenated with higher barriers than C2–C4 alkenes despite proceeding via stable benzenium cations because of the thermodynamic instability of the product which has lost aromaticity. Carbocation stabilities predict the relative rates of alkene hydrogenation and in some cases shed insights into the hydrogenation of benzene, dienes, and formaldehyde, but cation stabilities alone cannot account for the poor hydrogenation of benzene or the facile hydrogenation of dienes, boosted by stabilization conferred by a,δ-hydrogenation. This work suggests that the main mechanisms of catalyst lifetime improvement with high H2 co-feeds is reduction of diene concentrations through both their selective hydrogenation and hydrogenation of their precursors to prevent formation of deactivating polyaromatic species.