Challenges and opportunities for exploiting the role of zeolite confinements for the selective hydrogenation of acetylene

21 July 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Zeolites, with their ordered crystalline porous structure, provide a unique opportunity to confine metal catalysts, whether single atoms (e.g., transition metal ions (TMIs)) or metal clusters when used as a catalyst support. The confined environment has been shown to provide rate and selectivity enhancement across a variety of reactions via both steric and electronic effects such as size exclusion and transition state stabilization. In this review, we provide a survey of various zeolite confined catalysts used for the semi-hydrogenation of acetylene highlighting their performance, defined by ethylene selectivity at full acetylene conversion, in relationship to the synthesis technique employed. Synthesis methods that ensure confinement with catalyst transition metal location in the extra-framework positions are observed to have the report the highest selectivity to ethylene. However, the underlying molecular factors responsible for selective catalysis within confinement remains elusive due to the difficulty of deconvoluting individual effects. Through the careful use of a combination of characterization and spectroscopic methods, insights into the relationship between the properties of zeolite confined catalysts and their performance have been explored in other works for a variety of reactions. More specifically, operando spectroscopy studies have revealed the dynamic behavior of zeolite confined catalysts under various conditions implying that the structure and properties observed ex-situ do not always match those of the active catalyst under reaction conditions. Applying this type of analysis to acetylene semi-hydrogenation, a simple gas phase reaction, can help elucidate the structure-function relationship of zeolite confined catalysts allowing for more informed design choices and consequently their application to a wider variety of more complex reactions such as the liquid phase hydrogenation of alkynols where solvent effects must also be considered in addition to those of confinement.


Single Atom Catalysts
Zeolite supports
selective hydrogenation
Transition-state stabilization


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