Research ArticleChemistry

Methanol conversion on borocarbonitride catalysts: Identification and quantification of active sites

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Science Advances  24 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 26, eaba5778
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5778


Borocarbonitrides (BCNs) have emerged as highly selective catalysts for the oxidative dehydrogenation (ODH) reaction. However, there is a lack of in-depth understanding of the catalytic mechanism over BCN catalysts due to the complexity of the surface oxygen functional groups. Here, BCN nanotubes with multiple active sites are synthesized for oxygen-assisted methanol conversion reaction. The catalyst shows a notable activity improvement for methanol conversion (29%) with excellent selectivity to formaldehyde (54%). Kinetic measurements indicate that carboxylic acid groups on BCN are responsible for the formation of dimethyl ether, while the redox catalysis to formaldehyde occurs on both ketonic carbonyl and boron hydroxyl (B─OH) sites. The ODH reaction pathway on the B─OH site is further revealed by in situ infrared, x-ray absorption spectra, and density functional theory. The present work provides physical-chemical insights into the functional mechanism of BCN catalysts, paving the way for further development of the underexplored nonmetallic catalytic systems.

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