The acid sites of phosphorus-containing zeosils were probed through a combination of solid acid characterization, density functional theory calculations, and kinetic interrogations, establishing their weakly Brønsted acidic character. Due to the disparity in acid-site strength, P-zeosils catalyzed the probe chemistry of isopropanol dehydration slower than aluminosilicate zeolites by an order of magnitude on an active site basis. Propene selectivity during isopropanol dehydration remained 20-30% higher than that of aluminosilicates, illustrating the distinct nature of the weakly acidic phosphorus active sites that favored unimolecular dehydration routes. Regardless of the confining siliceous environment, the nature of phosphorous active sites was unchanged, indicated by identical apparent uni- and bi-molecular dehydration energy barriers. Kinetic isotope experiments with deuterated isopropanol feeds implicated an E2-type elimination to propene formation on phosphorus-containing materials. Comparison of KIEs between phosphorus-containing zeosils and aluminosilicates pointed to an unchanged isopropanol dehydration mechanism, with changes in apparent energetic barriers attributed to weaker binding on phosphorous-active sites that lead to a relatively destabilized alcohol dimer adsorbate. Both ex-situ alkylamine Hofmann elimination and in-situ pyridine titration characterization methods exhibited phosphorous acid site counts dependent on probe molecules identity and/or concentration, underpinning the limitations of extending common characterization techniques for Brønsted-acid catalysis to weakly acidic materials.
Supporting Information P Zeosils Abdelrahman