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Efficient Epoxidation over Faujasite Zeolites: Unprecedented O2 Cooperative Activation by Co(II)–Ba(II) Cation Pair Sites Confined in the Supercage

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posted on 2023-11-20, 12:20 authored by Xue Yang, Zhangyun Liu, Boxu Gao, Zheng Chen, Kexin Yan, Sinong Wang, Yujian Xia, Yahong Zhang, Lei Wang, Xin Xu, Yi Tang
Styrene oxide is one of the most important epoxides for manufacturing fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, but its current synthesis process is environmentally unfriendly. As an eco-friendly and safe system, Co2+(Ba2+)-exchanged faujasite zeolites were found to efficiently catalyze styrene epoxidation with molecular oxygen. Despite having been discovered for nearly two decades, the nature of the active site and the mechanism of the reaction remain unclear. Herein, we carried out detailed experimental characterizations and density functional theory calculations. We concluded that the active sites are binuclear, rather than single-site Co2+ ions as generally believed, where Co2+···Co2+ or Ba2+···Co2+ pairs cooperatively activate O2 to O2. As compared to that on the symmetric Co2+···Co2+ pair site, the ethenyl CC in styrene tends to be exclusively attacked by the terminal oxygen closer to Ba2+ on the asymmetric Ba2+···Co2+ pair site, thus enhancing the epoxidation selectivity. This new insight will enable the optimization of oxidation catalysts.

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