Ru-Sn/AC for the Aqueous-Phase Reduction of Succinic Acid to 1,4-Butanediol under Continuous Process Conditions

Derek R. Vardon, Amy E. Settle, Vassili Vorotnikov, Martin J. Menart, Todd R. Eaton, Kinga A. Unocic, K. Xerxes Steirer, Kevin N. Wood, Nicholas S. Cleveland, Kathleen E. Moyer, William E. Michener, Gregg T. Beckham

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45 Scopus Citations


Succinic acid is a biomass-derived platform chemical that can be catalytically converted in the aqueous phase to 1,4-butanediol (BDO), a prevalent building block used in the polymer and chemical industries. Despite significant interest, limited work has been reported regarding sustained catalyst performance and stability under continuous aqueous-phase process conditions. As such, this work examines Ru-Sn on activated carbon (AC) for the aqueous-phase conversion of succinic acid to BDO under batch and flow reactor conditions. Initially, powder Ru-Sn catalysts were screened to determine the most effective bimetallic ratio and provide a comparison to other monometallic (Pd, Pt, Ru) and bimetallic (Pt-Sn, Pd-Re) catalysts. Batch reactor tests determined that a ∼1:1 metal weight ratio of Ru to Sn was effective for producing BDO in high yields, with complete conversion resulting in 82% molar yield. Characterization of the fresh Ru-Sn catalyst suggests that the sequential loading method results in Ru sites that are colocated and surface-enriched with Sn. Postbatch reaction characterization confirmed stable Ru-Sn material properties; however, upon a transition to continuous conditions, significant Ru-Sn/AC deactivation occurred due to stainless steel leaching of Ni that resulted in Ru-Sn metal crystallite restructuring to form discrete Ni-Sn sites. Computational modeling confirmed favorable energetics for Ru-Sn segregation and Ni-Sn formation at submonolayer Sn incorporation. To address stainless steel leaching, reactor walls were treated with an inert silica coating by chemical vapor deposition. With leaching reduced, stable Ru-Sn/AC performance was observed that resulted in a molar yield of 71% BDO and 15% tetrahydrofuran for 96 h of time on stream. Postreaction catalyst characterization confirmed low levels of Ni and Cr deposition, although early-stage islanding of Ni-Sn will likely be problematic for industrially relevant time scales (i.e., thousands of hours). Overall, these results (i) demonstrate the performance of Ru-Sn/AC for aqueous phase succinic acid reduction, (ii) provide insight into the Ru-Sn bimetallic structure and deactivation in the presence of leached Ni, and (iii) underscore the importance of compatible reactor metallurgy and durable catalysts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6207-6219
Number of pages13
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-70060


  • biobased chemical
  • catalyst stability
  • leaching
  • lignocellulose
  • restructuring
  • Ru-Sn/AC


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