Ethylene oligomerization on nickel catalysts on a solid acid support: From New mechanistic insights to tunable bifunctionality

Elsa Koninckx, Pedro S.F. Mendes, Joris W. Thybaut, Linda J. Broadbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Light alkene oligomerization on heterogeneous acidic catalysts is widely and successfully used in current commercial processes. However, ethylene oligomerization remains inefficient due to ethylene's inability to form reaction intermediates to a sufficient extent on acid sites. Adding Ni(II) on solid acids can more efficiently catalyze ethylene oligomerization and selectively produce butenes to fuel range products. The review proposes a complete and detailed mechanism of heterogenous Ni-catalyzed oligomerization, whose structures are supported by combining various studies throughout recent literature, and focuses on the bifunctional effects of the nickel and acid sites on ethylene oligomerization. Using experiments, first-principles calculations, and kinetic modeling, Ni2+ has been shown to selectively oligomerize ethylene to light, linear alkenes via the Cossee-Arlman mechanism, while Brønsted H+ sites catalyze further alkylation, cracking, and isomerization reactions. The effects of reaction conditions and catalyst properties on selectivity and activity for oligomerization are systematically discussed. Tuning the relative nickel-to-acid site ratio and the framework support can allow for an optimal catalyst design directed towards desirable products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118296
JournalApplied Catalysis A: General
StatePublished - Aug 25 2021


  • Bifunctional
  • Catalysis
  • Ethylene oligomerization
  • Nickel
  • Zeolite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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