Key Factors During the Milling Stage of the Seed Assisted and Solvent-Free Synthesis of MFI and Catalytic Behavior in the Alkylation of Phenol with Tert-Butyl Alcohol

16 March 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The so-called mechanochemical method for the synthesis of zeolites reduces the generation of liquid residues and gaseous pollutants as compared to the conventional solvothermal method. Different types of zeolites have been synthesized at the laboratory scale with this method using mostly pestle and mortar. However, such an approach hinders both the systematic comprehension of the effects of the input variables of the milling process and its further scale-up towards the synthesis of the zeolites and their catalytic application. This work investigates the influence of key factors involved in the ball milling stage of the mechanochemical route for the synthesis of MFI done with the assistance of a commercial MFI seed and in the absence of solvents over the most salient physicochemical properties of this type of materials, i.e. the recovery percentage, production cost, morphology, surface area and porosity, crystallinity, acidity of the protonated MFI and catalytic performance. The synthesis of the materials was planned and executed following a full 24 factorial experiment whose input variables were the Na2O/SiO2 and H2O/SiO2 molar ratios and the milling time and speed. The effects of both main and interaction factors over key physicochemical properties, and catalytic behavior of the synthesized materials on the alkylation of phenol with tert-butyl alcohol were established within the explored sampling space. Results showed that the Na2O/SiO2 molar ratio plays a key role for the mechanochemical synthesis of MFI, since this variable may direct the synthesis to the preferential production of MOR instead of MFI. On the other hand, it was found that the milling time and speed and their interactions markedly impact the textural properties of MFI. Furthermore, the triple interaction between the input variables affected the concentration of Lewis acid sites of the produced materials. These effects were rationalized by considering that sodium can act as a structure directing agent during the mechanochemical synthesis of MFI and also can promote the incorporation of aluminum to its structure. On the other hand, the milling time and speed are non-linearly correlated to the milling energy required for forming the aluminosilicate precursor that crystallizes during the hydrothermal stage of the process. Overall, all the zeolites synthesized by the mechanochemical route were less crystalline than both the MFI used as seed and an MFI synthesized by sol-gel. This was associated to the formation of amorphous agglomerates around the zeolitic crystals. Finally, the catalytic behavior of the mechanochemical MFI zeolites in the studied reaction was found to be linearly and positively correlated with both the concentration of BrØnsted of sites and with the density of acid sites. The catalytic tendencies were consistent with the proposal of a stepwise Langmuir-Hinshelwood mechanism for the alkylation of phenol with tert-butyl alcohol.


MFI zeolite
phenol alkylation

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information


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