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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2012 Feb 21;14(7):2229-38. doi: 10.1039/c1cp22992c. Epub 2011 Dec 9.

Low absorption vitreous carbon reactors for operando XAS: a case study on Cu/Zeolites for selective catalytic reduction of NO(x) by NH3.

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School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, 480 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


We describe the use of vitreous carbon as an improved reactor material for an operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) plug-flow reactor. These tubes significantly broaden the operating range for operando experiments. Using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NO(x) by NH(3) on Cu/Zeolites (SSZ-13, SAPO-34 and ZSM-5) as an example reaction, we illustrate the high-quality XAS data achievable with these reactors. The operando experiments showed that in Standard SCR conditions of 300 ppm NO, 300 ppm NH(3), 5% O(2), 5% H(2)O, 5% CO(2) and balance He at 200 °C, the Cu was a mixture of Cu(I) and Cu(II) oxidation states. XANES and EXAFS fitting found the percent of Cu(I) to be 15%, 45% and 65% for SSZ-13, SAPO-34 and ZSM-5, respectively. For Standard SCR, the catalytic rates per mole of Cu for Cu/SSZ-13 and Cu/SAPO-34 were about one third of the rate per mole of Cu on Cu/ZSM-5. Based on the apparent lack of correlation of rate with the presence of Cu(I), we propose that the reaction occurs via a redox cycle of Cu(I) and Cu(II). Cu(I) was not found in in situ SCR experiments on Cu/Zeolites under the same conditions, demonstrating a possible pitfall of in situ measurements. A Cu/SiO(2) catalyst, reduced in H(2) at 300 °C, was also used to demonstrate the reactor's operando capabilities using a bending magnet beamline. Analysis of the EXAFS data showed the Cu/SiO(2) catalyst to be in a partially reduced Cu metal-Cu(I) state. In addition to improvements in data quality, the reactors are superior in temperature, stability, strength and ease of use compared to previously proposed borosilicate glass, polyimide tubing, beryllium and capillary reactors. The solid carbon tubes are non-porous, machinable, can be operated at high pressure (tested at 25 bar), are inert, have high material purity and high X-ray transmittance.


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