Zeolites Get New Efficiencies in Helping Convert Petrochemical Products

Achievement date: 

New synthetic methods to incorporate non-catalytic atoms into zeolites, an important catalyst in oil refining, promise greater control in generating new materials with improved performance. The new methods emerged in research supported by the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at Purdue University.


Controlling the location of acid sites in zeolites can have a great effect on their effectiveness. The ability to incorporate non-catalytic atoms contributes to controlling the acid sites in zeolites, as well as the crystal sizes of zeolites. The developments allow control of bulk- and atomic-scale properties in petrochemical refining, such as converting methanol and alkenes into heavier-molecular-weight compounds used as transportation fuels.


Liquid fuels are likely to remain in demand by society for transport applications due to the high energy density and ease distribution of such fuels. Decades of research has developed efficient processes for converting liquid fuels, including the enhanced effectiveness of zeolites, solid-acid catalysts used in petrochemical and refining industries.

One of the main drawbacks to wider application of zeolites has been the difficulty in characterizing and controlling the strength of their acidic sites. CISTAR’s research not only contributes to the more efficient control of zeolites, but also includes new acid-site characterization and quantification methods that aid in interpreting acid-catalyzed reactivity on this class of materials.