Surface Chemistry of Aromatic Reactants on Pt- and Mo-Modified Pt Catalysts

Jesse Hensley, Allison Robinson, Lesli Mark, Mathew Rasmussen, J. Medlin

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39 Scopus Citations


Supported catalysts containing an oxophilic metal such as Mo and a noble metal such as Pt have shown promising activity and selectivity for deoxygenation of biomass-derived compounds. Here, we report that PtMo catalysts also promote hydrogenolysis of the model compound benzyl alcohol, while decarbonylation is most prevalent over unmodified Pt. A combination of single crystal surface science studies, density functional theory (DFT) calculations, and vapor phase upgrading experiments using supported catalysts was carried out to better understand the mechanism by which Mo promotes deoxygenation. Molybdenum was deposited in submonolayer quantities on a Pt(111) surface and reduced at high temperature. Temperature-programmed desorption (TPD) experiments using benzyl alcohol as a reactant showed greatly enhanced yields of the deoxygenation product toluene at moderate Mo coverages. To understand how the interaction of the aromatic group with the surface influenced this reactivity, we investigated the adsorption of toluene as a probe molecule. We found that the addition of Mo to Pt(111) resulted in a significant decrease in toluene decomposition. DFT calculations indicated that this decrease was consistent with decreased aromatic adsorption strengths that accompany incorporation of Mo into the Pt subsurface. The weaker aromatic-surface interaction on Pt/Mo surfaces led to a tilted adsorption geometry for benzyl alcohol, which presumably promotes hydrogenolysis to produce toluene instead of decarbonylation to produce benzene and CO. Alumina-supported Pt and PtMo catalysts were also tested for benzyl alcohol deoxygenation. PtMo catalysts had a higher rate of toluene production and lower rates of benzene and benzaldehyde production. Additionally, when benzaldehyde was used as the reactant to measure decarbonylation activity the mass-normalized rate of benzene production was 2.5 times higher on Pt than PtMo. Overall, the results of TPD, DFT, and supported catalyst experiments suggest that subsurface Mo sites weaken the binding of aromatic rings on PtMo surfaces; the weakened aromatic-surface interaction is correlated with an improvement in selectivity to C-O bond scission.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)26824-26833
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number47
StatePublished - Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-67714


  • biomass-derived compounds
  • catalysts


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