Rapid Polyolefin Plastic Hydrogenolysis Mediated by Single-Site Heterogeneous Electrophilic/Cationic Organo-group IV Catalysts

Wilson C. Edenfield, Alexander H. Mason, Qingheng Lai, Amol Agarwal, Takeshi Kobayashi*, Yosi Kratish*, Tobin J. Marks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A homologous series of cationic electrophilic group IV metal hydrides (M = Ti, Zr, Hf) created by chemisorption of the corresponding MNp4 precursors on highly Brønsted acidic sulfated alumina (AlS) to yield loosely coordinated surface AlS/MNp2 (Np = neopentyl) species are systematically characterized by ICP, EXAFS/XANES, DRIFTS, and solid-state high-resolution multidimensional NMR spectroscopy (SSNMR), as well as by energy span DFT computation. With effective stirring, these complexes readily undergo reaction with H2 to yield AlS/M(alkyl)H species, which are highly active for the hydrogenolysis of diverse commercial polyethylenes, α-olefin-ethylene copolymers, isotactic polypropylene, and postconsumer polyolefins including high-density polyethylenes, yielding medium and small linear and branched hydrocarbons at turnover frequencies as high as 36,300 h-1 at 200 °C/17 atm H2 for M = Zr. For given polyolefin and reaction conditions, turnover frequencies scale approximately as M = Zr > Hf > Ti, whereas catalyst thermal stability scales approximately as M = Hf ≈ Zr > Ti, and these trends are qualitatively understandable from the DFT analysis. These catalytic results reveal that the AlS/Hf(R)H-mediated hydrogenolysis favors wax-like and liquid products, whereas the AlS/Zr(R)H-mediated hydrogenolysis can be tuned between gases and liquids. DFT analysis identifies β-alkyl elimination as the turnover-limiting C-C scission process, which is particularly facile in these cationic d0 complexes but not so in the neutrally charged analogues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-565
Number of pages12
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2024


  • chemical recycling
  • hafnium
  • hydrogenolysis
  • polyolefin waste
  • sulfated alumina
  • zirconium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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