P-site structural diversity and evolution in a zeosil catalyst

Sheetal K. Jain, Tarnuma Tabassum, Li Li, Limin Ren, Wei Fan, Michael Tsapatsis, Stavros Caratzoulas, Songi Han*, Susannah L. Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Phosphorus-modified siliceous zeolites, or P-zeosils, catalyze the selective dehydration of biomass derivatives to platform chemicals such as p-xylene and 1,3-butadiene. Water generated during these reactions is a critical factor in catalytic activity, but the effects of hydrolysis on the structure, acidity, and distribution of the active sites are largely unknown. In this study, the P-sites in an all-silica self-pillared pentasil (P-SPP) with a low P-loading (Si/P = 27) were identified by solid-state 31P NMR using frequency-selective detection. This technique resolves overlapping signals for P-sites that are covalently bound to the solid phase, as well as oligomers confined in the zeolite but not attached to the zeolite. Dynamic Nuclear Polarization provides the sensitivity necessary to conduct 29Si-filtered 31P detection and 31P-31P correlation experiments. The aforementioned techniques allow us to distinguish sites with P-O-Si linkages from those with P-O-P linkages. The spectra reveal a previously unappreciated diversity of P-sites, including evidence for surface-bound oligomers. In the dry P-zeosil, essentially all P-sites are anchored to the solid phase, including mononuclear sites and dinuclear sites containing the [Si-O-P-O-P-O-Si] motif. The fully-condensed sites evolve rapidly when exposed to humidity, even at room temperature. Partially hydrolyzed species have a wide range of acidities, inferred from their calculated LUMO energies. Initial cleavage of some P-O-Si linkages results in an evolving mixture of surface-bound mono- and oligonuclear P-sites with increased acidity. Subsequent P-O-P cleavage leads to a decrease in acidity as the P-sites are eventually converted to H3PO4. The ability to identify acidic sites in P-zeosils and to describe their structure and stability will play an important role in controlling the activity of microporous catalysts by regulating their water content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1968-1983
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 3 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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