Scientists discover new platinum catalysts for the dehydrogenation of propane

March 13, 2009
Clusters of 8-10 platinum atoms deposited in pores of an aluminum oxide membrane are highly active and selective catalysts for the oxidative dehydrogenation of propane. Art by Michael Sternberg and Faisal Mehmood. Provided by ANL.

( -- The process to turn propane into industrially necessary propylene has been expensive and environmentally unfriendly. That was until scientists at U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory devised a greener way to take this important step in chemical catalysis.

"Using clusters, we have devised a way to catalyze not only in a more environmentally friendly way, but also using far less energy than previous methods," Argonne scientist Stefan Vajda said.

Alkanes are typical feedstocks for transformation to alkenes, aromatics and chemicals containing value added moieties. is a route to such transformations, but it is an requiring significant energy input.

Oxidative dehydrogenation (ODH) of propane to propylene is a multibillion dollar industrial process. ODH of alkanes is exothermic, and thus an attractive alternative to dehydrogenation. However, current ODH catalysts have limited activity and/or poor selectivity resulting from inability to prevent complete . Two classes of catalysts are used: vanadia and platinum. The vanadia based catalysts are highly selective, but their activity is relatively low. Pt-based catalysts are more active, but their selectivity is low.

Argonne scientists showed that the size preselected Pt8-10 clusters stabilized on high-surface-area supports are 40� times more active for the oxidative dehydrogenation of propane than previously studied platinum and vanadia catalysts, while at the same time maintaining high selectivity towards formation of propylene over by-products.

This new class of catalysts may lead to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly synthesis strategies and the possible replacement of petrochemical feedstocks by abundant small alkanes.

"The oxidative dehydrogenation of alkanes is a reaction that is exothermic and thus an attractive alternative to the endothermic process of dehydrogenation of alkanes," Argonne scientist Larry Curtiss said. "The endothermic process requires a significant energy input with an increased chance of environmentally unfriendly by-products."

Using high performance computing facilities at Argonne and elsewhere, Vajda and his colleagues proved theoretically that attractive interaction between the under-coordinated platinum and propane was the cause for the higher selectivity towards propylene and its high activity.

More information: Subnanometre Platinum Clusters as Highly Active and Selective Catalysts for the Oxidative Dehydrogenation of Propane can be seen Nature Materials 8, 213 (2009).

Source: Argonne National Laboratory

Explore further: Argonne to study fuel cell catalysts

Related Stories

Argonne to study fuel cell catalysts

May 26, 2005

Argonne National Laboratory will receive $3 million over three years for basic science studies that may lead to improved catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells.

Renewable Raw Materials

May 29, 2006

Petroleum and natural gas reserves are getting smaller and smaller. It is thus a real waste to burn up these valuable resources for heat or transportation especially as "black gold" is also the most important starting material ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.