The small-pore zeolite with the chabazite framework topology, SSZ-13, is found to be an active catalyst in the carbonylation of dimethyl ether to methyl acetate (MA). The production of MA over SSZ-13 after 24 h on stream at 165 °C and 1 bar approaches that obtained from mordenite and is significantly higher than from ferrierite at comparable Si/Al of ca. 10. To understand the origin of the activity, SSZ-13 materials are synthesized with variable Si/Al, characterized via several techniques including multinuclear magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS NMR) spectroscopy, and evaluated for their carbonylation activity. While MA production rates increase with decreasing Si/Al, the correlation is nonlinear due to the effect of Si/Al on the acid site distribution within different confining environments, and the associated impact of the latter on the rate-determining transition state barrier. Enhanced MA production rates trend with acid sites located at the eight-membered ring (8MR) that are increasingly populated as framework Al content increases. Density functional theory analyses of transition state energies as a function of active site location support the experimental findings, where the lowest apparent barriers are associated with the methoxy groups that orient within the plane of the 8MR window. This is due to an optimal charge stabilization of the cationic transition states with the negatively charged oxygens within the 8MR window. The effects of catalyst chemical composition, separate from framework topology, are also investigated using SAPO-34 (the silicoaluminophosphate analog of SSZ-13). Analyses of the 1H MAS NMR signals and carbonylation activity suggest that the higher acid site strength of SSZ-13 compared to that of the SAPO material is required for effective Brønsted acid catalysis of Koch-type carbonylation pathways.
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- acetic acid
- small-pore zeolite