The production of 1-butene via ethylene dimerization is one of the few industrial processes that employs homogeneous catalysis due to its high selectivity, despite the massive amounts of activators and solvents required. Now, a new paper by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), in collaboration with the López group at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) and RTI International, shows a more sustainable alternative via metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a family of porous materials formed by metallic nodes connected through organic ligands.
The scientists demonstrate that tailored MOFs under condensation regimes catalyze the ethylene dimerization to 1-butene with high selectivity and stability in the absence of activators and solvent. The research, published in Nature Communications, opens new avenues to develop robust heterogeneous catalysts for a wide variety of gas-phase reactions.
The researchers engineered defects in the MOF (Ru)HKUST-1 without compromising the framework structure via two strategies: a conventional ligand exchange approach during MOF synthesis, and a pioneering post-synthetic thermal approach. The researchers then characterized the defects, which have been shown to be catalytically active for ethylene dimerization.