Catalytic hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol is an important chemical process owing to its contribution in alleviating the impacts of the greenhouse effect and in realizing the requirement for renewable energy sources. Owing to their excellent synergic functionalities and unique optoelectronic as well as catalytic properties, transition metal/ZnO (M/ZnO) nanocomposites have been widely used as catalysts for this reaction in recent years. Development of size-controlled synthesis of metal/oxide complexes is highly desirable. Further, because it is extremely difficult to achieve the strong-metal-support-interaction (SMSI) effect when the M/ZnO nanocomposites are prepared via physical methods, the use of chemical methods is more favorable for the fabrication of multi-component catalysts. However, because of the requirement for an extra H2 reduction step to obtain the active metallic phase (M) and surfactants to control the size of nanoparticles, most M/ZnO nanocomposites undergo two- or multi-step synthesis, which is disadvantageous for the stable catalytic performance of the M/ZnO nanocomposites. In this work, we demonstrate facile one-pot synthesis of M/ZnO (M = Pd, Au, Ag, and Cu) nanocomposites in refluxed ethylene glycol as a solvent, without using any surfactants. During the synthesis process, Pd and ZnO species can stabilize each other from further aggregation by reducing their individual surface energies, thereby achieving size control of particles. Besides, NaHCO3 serves as a size-control tool for Pd nanoparticles by adjusting the alkaline conditions. Ethylene glycol serves as a mild reducing agent and solvent owing to its capacity to reduce Pd ions to generate Pd crystals. The nucleation and growth of Pd particles are achieved by thermal reduction, while the ZnO nanocrystals are formed by thermal decomposition of Zn(OAc)2. X-ray diffraction patterns of the M/ZnO and ZnO were analyzed to study the phase of the nanocomposites, and the results show that no impurity phase was detected. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to study the morphology and structural properties. In addition, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis was performed to further confirm the formation of M/ZnO hybrid materials, and the results confirm SMSI between Pd and ZnO. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry was used to check the actual elemental compositions, and the results show that the detected atomic ratios of Pd/Zn were consistent with the values in the theoretical recipe. To investigate the effects of the Pd/Zn molar ratios and the added amount of NaHCO3 on Pd size, the average sizes of Pd particles were calculated, and the results were confirmed by TEM observation. The Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 composite is a widely known catalyst for hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol, and other M/ZnO composites are also catalytic for this reaction. Therefore, different M/ZnO hybrids were further studied as catalysts for hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol, among which Pd/ZnO (1 : 9) demonstrated the best performance (30% CO2 conversion, 69% methanol selectivity, and 421.9 gmethanol·(kg catalyst·h)-1 at 240 ℃ and 5 MPa. The outstanding catalytic performance may be explained by the following two factors: first, Pd is a good catalyst for the dissociation of H2 to give active H atoms, and second, SMSI between Pd and ZnO favors the formation of surface oxygen vacancies on ZnO. Moreover, most M/ZnO composites exhibit excellent performance in methanol selectivity, especially the Au/ZnO catalyst, which has the highest methanol selectivity (82%) despite having the lowest CO2 conversion. Hopefully, this work would provide a simple route for synthesis of M/ZnO nanocomposites with clean surfaces for catalysis.
Received: 29 December 2017
Published: 26 February 2018