Stability of bound species during alkene reactions on solid acids

Michele L. Sarazen, Enrique Iglesia

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53 Scopus citations


This study reports the thermodynamics of bound species derived from ethene, propene, n-butene, and isobutene on solid acids with diverse strength and confining voids. Density functional theory (DFT) and kinetic data indicate that covalently bound alkoxides form C-C bonds in the kinetically relevant step for dimerization turnovers on protons within TON (0.57 nm) and MOR (0.67 nm) zeolitic channels and on stronger acids HPW (polyoxometalate clusters on silica). Turnover rates for mixed alkenes give relative alkoxide stabilities; the respective adsorption constants are obtained from in situ infrared spectra. Tertiary alkoxides (from isobutene) within larger voids (MOR, HPW) are more stable than less substituted isomers but are destabilized within smaller concave environments (TON) because framework distortions are required to avoid steric repulsion. Adsorption constants are similar on MOR and HPW for each alkoxide, indicating that binding is insensitive to acid strength for covalently bound species. DFT-derived formation free energies for alkoxides with different framework attachments and backbone length/structure agree with measurements when dispersion forces, which mediate stabilization by confinement in host-guest systems, are considered. Theory reveals previously unrecognized framework distortions that balance the C-O bond lengths required for covalency with host-guest distances that maximize van der Waals contacts. These distortions, reported here as changes in O-atom locations and dihedral angles, become stronger for larger, more substituted alkoxides. The thermodynamic properties reported here for alkoxides and acid hosts differing in size and conjugate-anion stability are benchmarked against DFT-derived free energies; their details are essential to design host- guest pairs that direct alkoxide species toward specific products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3900-E3908
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 16 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Alkene adsorption
  • Density functional theory
  • Heterogeneous catalysis
  • Zeolites


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