Demonstrating the Critical Role of Solvation in Supported Ti and Nb Epoxidation Catalysts via Vapor-Phase Kinetics

Sol Ahn, Scott L. Nauert, Kenton E. Hicks, M. Alexander Ardagh, Neil M. Schweitzer, Omar K. Farha*, Justin M. Notestein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Catalytic oxidation of hydrocarbons with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has been of the utmost importance for several decades. The vast majority of studies have been performed in the condensed phase, even though condensed phases introduce complex solvent effects and can promote the leaching of active sites. In response, we have built a custom reactor system to understand H2O2 activation and selective oxidation in the vapor-phase. In this report, we study the epoxidation of cyclohexene with H2O2 over four Lewis-acidic metal oxide catalysts: Ti and Nb grafted on SiO2 and on the Zr based metal-organic framework, NU-1000. The M-SiO2 materials are highly selective to the formation of epoxides and diols, as they can be in the condensed phase, while the NU-1000 based materials are far more prone to overoxidation to CO2, which appears to be connected to their strong reactant adsorption. Apparent activation energies are calculated for all materials when operating in the same kinetic regime, and the heats of cyclohexene adsorption into their pores are then used to directly compare intrinsic enthalpies of activation in the vapor vs condensed phase for the M-SiO2 catalysts. Nb-SiO2 catalysts exhibit similar intrinsic enthalpies of activation in the vapor and condensed phases, whereas the condensed phase transition state in Ti-SiO2 is 24 kJ/mol lower in energy than that of the same material in the vapor phase. These experiments establish another methodology for understanding the various roles of solvent in selective oxidation reactions and studying these reactions under conditions that differ significantly from the thousands of prior studies in the condensed phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2817-2825
Number of pages9
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 21 2020


  • epoxidation
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • metal oxide catalyst
  • metal-organic framework
  • selective oxidation
  • supported catalyst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)


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