Revealing Main Reaction Paths to Olefins and Aromatics in Methanol-to-Hydrocarbons over H-ZSM-5 by Isotope Labeling

Chuncheng Liu, Evgeny A. Uslamin, Evgeny A. Pidko*, Freek Kapteijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The nature of hydrocarbon pool (HCP) intermediates in the methanol-to-hydrocarbons (MTH) process has been thoroughly investigated, especially for BEA- and CHA-type zeolite catalysts like H-β and H-SAPO-34. Herein, we further reveal the dynamic mechanistic details of the MTH process over the H-ZSM-5 catalyst at 400 °C, based on the dual-cycle mechanism and HCP in this medium-pore zeolite. Application of switching sequences of 13C-labeled and unlabeled methanol pulses over a model H-ZSM-5 catalyst combined with on-line MS analysis and a recently reported technique called “fast scanning-pulse GC analysis” provides a direct and quantitative insight into the MTH reactions under quasi-steady-state conditions. The transient product responses showed the almost instant formation of hydrocarbons upon a small pulse of methanol, followed by secondary formation of light aromatics via HCP decomposition and olefin alkylation-dealkylation, especially in a long catalyst bed when methanol is quickly consumed in the initial reaction zone in the catalyst bed. The isotopic analysis of typical aliphatic C3+ product responses after switching 13C-methanol pulses to the unlabeled methanol pulses showed a fast isotope scrambling in the formation of C3+ species. MS analysis of the light aromatics indicates a complete consecutive but slower isotope incorporation process of 12C into 13C-aromatics. Results provide direct experimental confirmation of the kinetically preferred olefin-based cycle over the aromatic-based cycle. The sequential isotopic incorporation strongly suggests that the paring reaction pathway through aromatic ring contraction and re-expansion steps is operative. In the appearance of aromatics upon pulsing methanol over larger catalyst beds, four processes are directly discerned, involving the displacement of adsorbed species by formed water, isotope incorporation yielding directly labeled and unlabeled products through the paring mechanism and direct aromatization, and HCP conversion through secondary reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5205-5212
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number8
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • C/C switch
  • fast scanning-pulse analysis (FASPA)
  • hydrocarbon pool mechanism
  • isotope labeling
  • methanol-to-hydrocarbons


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