Alexander Todd and Christopher Bielawski from the University of Texas, at Austin have combined zeolites with graphite oxide to enhance their catalytic activities when dehydrating alcohols.
Although both catalysts can be used independently, the team observed a synergistic activity when the catalysts were used in tandem.
Protic zeolites (where H+ is the counter cation) are usually prepared by either ion exchange or high temperature calcination of an ammonium ion exchanged precursor, although ion exchange is not really viable for zeolites with low silica content (such as NaY zeolites). However, Bielawski found that NaY zeolites could be used without either preparation step due to a little help from graphite oxide.
The researchers propose that H+ is released from the graphite oxide upon its dispersion in solvent which exchanges with the Na+ ion in the zeolites to produce the protic form. The graphite oxide–zeolite duo was found to catalyse the dehydration of secondary, tertiary and primary aliphatic alcohols to the corresponding olefinic products with very favourable conversions.
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Graphite oxide activated zeolite NaY: applications in alcohol dehydration
Alexander D. Todd and Christopher W. Bielawski