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Enhancing the Ethylene and Propylene Selectivities in the Methanol-to-Olefins Reaction by Exploiting the Intricate Relationship between Framework Topology and Acidity


Alshafei, Faisal H. (2023) Enhancing the Ethylene and Propylene Selectivities in the Methanol-to-Olefins Reaction by Exploiting the Intricate Relationship between Framework Topology and Acidity. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/btcj-w948.


This thesis describes and presents results from several related projects within the theme of molecular sieve synthesis and catalysis. The early part of the thesis focuses on understanding the link between cage size/dimension and acidity (i.e., acid site density and strength) in the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) reaction. This relationship between cage size and acidity, once identified and investigated, is exploited in the latter parts of the thesis to rationally design materials that are able to steer the light olefins product distribution toward either more ethylene or propylene in a significant improvement over SAPO-34 (CHA), the commercial catalyst.

In Chapters 2, 44 zeolites and silicoaluminophosphates (SAPOs) belonging to five frameworks (AEI, CHE, LEV, SWY, and ERI) with a wide range of Si/Al=4-31 and Si/(Al+P)=0.04-0.3, are synthesized and characterized using a myriad of techniques. Their MTO behavior is then systematically investigated to rationalize the effect of cage dimensions on the olefins product distribution as a function of acid site density and strength. The results from this study show that changes in acid site density and strength play a secondary role to the dominating influence of cage architecture on product distribution in AEI- and CHA-type molecular sieves. Decreasing the cage size, in going from AEI and CHA to LEV, SWY, and ERI, however, results in substantial changes in the ethylene-to-propylene ratio (E/P) as a function of acidity. These changes are attributed to differences in the identity and concentration of the hydrocarbon-pool (HP) species that form, particularly in early stages of the reaction.

In Chapters 3 and 4, ERI-type molecular sieves (e.g., SSZ-98, UZM-12, ERI-type zeolites, and SAPO-17) are thoroughly investigated as promising methanol-to-ethylene materials due to their narrow cage size. Specifically, numerous ERI-type molecular sieves are synthesized using several organic structure-directing agents (OSDAs) with varied Si/Al or Si/T-atoms ratios. The list of ERI-related materials synthesized and tested in MTO included a new disordered SAPO, denoted as CIT-16P, which upon thermal treatment in air transforms to SAPO-17 (ERI). The reaction results show that decreasing the Si/Al (or increasing the Si/T) ratio, irrespective of other material properties, improves the E/P of ERI-type molecular sieves (E/P=1.1-1.9) over CHA-type molecular sieves (E/P=0.82-0.85) in MTO. Dissolution-extraction experiments reveal that the rapid formation of cyclic intermediates and the shift in their composition toward less-methylated methylbenzenes and methylnaphthalenes are found to be key to enhancing the ethylene selectivity in ERI-type molecular sieves.

In Chapter 5, several SAT-type molecular sieves are investigated as promising methanol-to-propylene catalysts. This effort entails the synthesis of CIT-17, an SAT SAPO-type molecular sieve, which is isostructural to STA-2 (MgAPO-SAT). Following the successful synthesis of CIT-17, the MTO behavior of several SAT-type molecular sieves (MgAPO, CoAPO, and SAPO) are investigated in MTO. The combination of low acidity of CIT-17 and unique structural features of the narrow SAT-cage lead to a catalytic pathway and mechanism that predominantly favors propylene (propylene-to-ethylene ratios (P/E) of 2-4.2; propylene selectivity of 40-50%). Indeed, CIT-17 achieves one of the highest P/E ratio values reported for this class of materials.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Zeolites; Molecular Sieves; Methanol-to-Olefins Reaction, CIT-16P, CIT-17, Catalysis
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Not set
Research Advisor(s):
  • Davis, Mark E.
Thesis Committee:
  • Flagan, Richard C. (chair)
  • Manthiram, Karthish
  • Zones, Stacey I.
  • Davis, Mark E.
Defense Date:7 April 2023
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Chevron Energy and Technology CompanyUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04142023-055704455
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 3 adapted for Ch. 4
Alshafei, Faisal H.0000-0003-1808-1374
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15139
Deposited By: Faisal Alshafei
Deposited On:18 Apr 2023 03:37
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:31

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