Enhancing Cooperativity in Bifunctional Acid-Pd Catalysts with Carboxylic Acid-Functionalized Organic Monolayers

Patrick D. Coan, Lucas D. Ellis, Michael B. Griffin, Daniel K. Schwartz, J. Will Medlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus Citations


Cooperative catalysts containing a combination of noble metal hydrogenation sites and Brønsted acid sites are critical for many reactions, including the deoxygenation (DO) of biomass-derived oxygenates in the upgrading of pyrolysis oil. One route toward the design of cooperative catalysts is to tether two different catalytically active functions so that they are in close proximity while avoiding undesirable interactions that can block active sites. Here, we deposited carboxylic acid (CA)-functionalized organophosphonate monolayers onto Al2O3-supported Pd nanoparticle catalysts to prepare bifunctional catalysts containing both Brønsted acid and metal sites. Modification with phosphonic acids (PAs) improved activity and selectivity for gas-phase DO reactions, but the degree of improvement was highly sensitive to both the presence and positioning of the CA group, suggesting a significant contribution from both the PA and CA sites. Short spacer lengths of 1-2 methylene groups between the phosphonate head and CA tail were found to yield the best DO rates and selectivities, whereas longer chains performed similarly to self-assembled monolayers having alkyl tails. Results from a combination of density functional theory and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy suggested that the enhanced catalyst performance on the optimally positioned CAs was due to the generation of strong acid sites on the Al2O3 support adjacent to the metal. Furthermore, the high activity of these sites was found to result from a hydrogen-bonded cyclic structure involving cooperativity between the phosphonate head group and CA tail function. More broadly, these results indicate that functional groups tethered to supports via organic ligands can influence catalytic chemistry on metal nanoparticles.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6637-6647
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-71319


  • bi-functional catalysts
  • catalyst performance
  • catalytic chemistry
  • cyclic structures
  • improved activities
  • methylene groups
  • organic monolayers


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