Acidity Characterization of Amorphous Silica-Alumina

Emiel J. M. Hensen, Dilip G. Poduval, Volkan Degirmenci, D. A. J. Michel Ligthart, Wenbin Chen, Francoise Mauge, Marcello S. Rigutto, J. A. Rob van Veen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Surface characterization of amorphous silica-alumina (ASA) by COads IR, pyridine(ads) IR, alkylamine temperature-programmed desorption (TPD), Cs+ and Cu(EDA)(2)(2+) exchange, H-1 NMR, and m-xylene isomerization points to the presence of a broad range of Bronsted and Lewis acid sites. Careful interpretation of IR spectra of adsorbed CO or pyridine confirms the presence of a few very strong Bronsted acid sites (BAS), typically at concentrations lower than 10 mu mol/g. The general procedure for alkylamine TPD, which probes both Bronsted and Lewis acidity, is modified to increase the selectivity to strong Bronsted acid sites. Poisoning of the m-xylene isomerization reaction by a base is presented as a novel method to quantify strong BAS. The surface also contains a weaker form of BAS, in concentrations between 50 and 150 mu mol/g, which can be quantified by COads IR Cu(EDA)(2)(2+) exchange also probes these sites. The structure of these sites remains unclear, but they might arise from the interaction of silanol groups with strong Lewis acid Al3+ sites. The surface also contains nonacidic aluminol and silanol sites (200-400 mu mol/g) and two forms of Lewis acid sites: (i) a weaker form associated with segregated alumina domains containing five-coordinated Al, which make up the interface between these domains and the ASA phase and (ii) a stronger form, which are undercoordinated Al sites grafted onto the silica surface. The acid catalytic activity in bifunctional n-heptane hydroconversion correlates with the concentration of strong BAS. The influence of the support electronegativity on the neopentane hydrogenolysis activity of supported Pt catalysts is considerably larger than that of the support Bronsted acidity. It is argued that strong Lewis acid sites, which are present in ASA but not in gamma-alumina, are essential to transmit the Sanderson electronegativity of the oxide support to the active Pt phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21416-21429
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Energy(all)
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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