Selective methylation of toluene using CO2 and H2 to para-xylene

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Science Advances  21 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 34, eaba5433
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5433


Toluene methylation with methanol to produce xylene has been widely investigated. A simultaneous side reaction of methanol-to-olefin over zeolites is hard to avoid, resulting in an unsatisfactory methylation efficiency. Here, CO2 and H2 replace methanol in toluene methylation over a class of ZnZrOx–ZSM-5 (ZZO-Z5) dual-functional catalysts. Results demonstrate that the reactive methylation species (H3CO*; * represents a surface species) are generated more easily by CO2 hydrogenation than by methanol dehydrogenation. Catalytic performance tests on a fixed-bed reactor show that 92.4% xylene selectivity in CO-free products and 70.8% para-xylene selectivity in xylene are obtained on each optimized catalyst. Isotope effects of H2/D2 and CO2/13CO2 indicate that xylene product is substantially generated from toluene methylation rather than disproportionation. A mechanism involving generation of reactive methylation species on ZZO by CO2 hydrogenation and migration of the methylation species to Z5 pore for the toluene methylation to form xylene is proposed.

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