Understanding Selectivity in CO2 Hydrogenation to Methanol for MoP Nanoparticle Catalysts Using In Situ Techniques

Melis S. Duyar, Alessandro Gallo , Samuel K. Regli, Jonathan L. Snider, Joseph A. Singh , Eduardo Valle, Joshua McEnaney, Stacey F. Bent , Magnus Rønning, Thomas F. Jaramillo
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Molybdenum phosphide (MoP) catalyzes the hydrogenation of CO, CO2, and their mixtures to methanol, and it is investigated as a high-activity catalyst that overcomes deactivation issues (e.g., formate poisoning) faced by conventional transition metal catalysts. MoP as a new catalyst for hydrogenating CO2 to methanol is particularly appealing for the use of CO2 as chemical feedstock. Herein, we use a colloidal synthesis technique that connects the presence of MoP to the formation of methanol from CO2, regardless of the support being used. By conducting a systematic support study, we see that zirconia (ZrO2) has the striking ability to shift the selectivity towards methanol by increasing the rate of methanol conversion by two orders of magnitude compared to other supports, at a CO2 conversion of 1.4% and methanol selectivity of 55.4%. In situ X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) and in situ X-ray Diffraction (XRD) indicate that under reaction conditions the catalyst is pure MoP in a partially crystalline phase. Results from Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy coupled with Temperature Programmed Surface Reaction (DRIFTS- TPSR) point towards a highly reactive monodentate formate intermediate stabilized by the strong interaction of MoP and ZrO2. This study definitively shows that the presence of a MoP phase leads to methanol formation from CO2, regardless of support and that the formate intermediate on MoP governs methanol formation rate.

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