University of Delaware using zeolites to create new pathways for greener chemicals

August 16, 2021 |

In Delaware, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware, has been running experiments with zeolites in UD’s Colburn Lab. He wants to see if a special kind of this porous material can unlock new pathways to cleaner, greener chemical reactions.

A typical zeolite is made up primarily of aluminum, oxygen and silicon atoms linked together, which creates a three-dimensional (3D) cage-like structure that acts like a sieve on a molecular scale with the ability to sort molecules of a particular size. The inclusion of aluminum creates a charge imbalance (an anion), which is balanced by either metal ions or hydrogen ions — the active sites that propel reactions to occur.

The research goal is to have the more selective iron zeolite catalyst only perform a subset of the various reactions involved in methanol to hydrocarbon (MTH) chemistry. MTH is a way of converting methanol, a single carbon molecule derived from natural gas or biomass, into larger and more valuable hydrocarbons to prepare fuels and chemicals. One of the goals of his work is to get the reactivity of iron-based zeolites to be more similar to aluminum zeolites, which are the most used catalysts in industry.

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Category: Research

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