Light olefins containing two to four carbon atoms (C2=–C4=) are important feedstocks for production of a variety of chemicals, such as polymers and drugs. Conventionally light olefins are produced from steam cracking and fluid catalytic cracking of naphtha. This is a costly process but also concerns the energy security in China. Therefore, wide efforts have been made to explore technologies from alternative resources such as relatively cheaper and richer coal resource. The research team at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP), led by Prof. Bao Xinhe, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and Prof. Pan Xiulian developed a nanocomposite, which can directly catalyze selective conversion of coal-derived synthesis gas to light olefins. The sum selectivity of ethylene, propene and butene reaches 80%, which is far beyond the maximum predicted by the Anderson-Schulz-Flory (ASF) model in the conventional Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS). Furthermore, in this new process, the surface oxygen from dissociated CO is removed by reacting with CO forming CO2 instead of reacting with H2 forming H2O. Thus it may allow use of coal-derived syngas with a low H2/CO ratio and the energy-intensive water-gas-shift reaction may be discarded. This could reduce both water and energy consumption. The work was published in Science 351: 1065-1068 (2016). Prof. Krijn P. de Jong from Utrecht University, a world leading scientist in the field of C1 chemistry, commented in the Perspective, published in the same issue of Science (Science 351: 1030-1031 (2016)) that this research should be of interest to both academia and industry and that the new process could become a serious competitor for industrial processes such as Fischer-Tropsch to olefins (FTO) and Methanol to olefins (MTO). It was considered by the industry to be a breakthrough technology in the field of coal conversion.
Dr. Yang Pan et al at the Photoionization Mass Spectrometry (PIMS) End-station of NSRL developed an in-situ catalytic reactor and synchrotron PIMS-based diagnostic methods. In this work, they detected some key intermediates, such as ketene (CH2CO) in the catalytic conversion of syngas, providing the evidence of new catalytic reaction mechanism and theoretical basis for the optimization of catalysts.
Breakthrough in the field of coal chemistry