Quantifying Effects of Active Site Proximity on Rates of Methanol Dehydration to Dimethyl Ether over Chabazite Zeolites through Microkinetic Modeling

Grant Marsden, Pavlo Kostetskyy, Ryoh Suke Sekiya, Alexander Hoffman, Songhyun Lee, Rajamani Gounder, David Hibbitts, Linda J. Broadbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Control of the spatial proximity of Brønsted acid sites within the zeolite framework can result in materials with properties that are distinct from materials synthesized through conventional crystallization methods or available from commercial sources. Recent experimental evidence has shown that turnover rates of different acid-catalyzed reactions increase with the fraction of proximal sites in chabazite (CHA) zeolites. The catalytic conversion of oxygenates is an important research area, and the dehydration of methanol to dimethyl ether (DME) is a well-studied reaction as part of methanol-to-olefin chemistry catalyzed by solid acids. Published experimental data have shown that DME formation rates (per acid site) increase systematically with the fraction of proximal acid sites in the six-membered ring of CHA. Here, we probe the effect of acid site proximity in CHA on methanol dehydration rates using electronic structure calculations and microkinetic modeling to identify the primary causes of this chemistry and their relationship to the local structure of the catalyst at the nanoscale. We report a density functional theory-parametrized microkinetic model of methanol dehydration to DME, catalyzed by acidic CHA zeolite with direct comparison to experimental data. Effects of proximal acid sites on reaction rates were captured quantitatively for a range of operating conditions and catalyst compositions, with a focus on total paired acid site concentration and reactant clustering to form higher nuclearity complexes. Next-nearest neighbor paired acid sites were identified as promoting the formation of methanol trimer clusters rather than the inhibiting tetramer or pentamer clusters, resulting in large increases in the rate for DME production due to the lower energy barriers present in the concerted methanol trimer reaction pathway. The model framework developed in this study can be extended to other zeolite materials and reaction chemistries toward the goal of rational design and development of next-generation catalytic materials and chemical processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages13
JournalACS Materials Au
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 9 2022


  • active site proximity
  • aluminum distribution
  • chabazite
  • degree of rate control
  • density functional theory
  • methanol dehydration
  • microkinetic modeling
  • reaction flux

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Biomaterials


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