Electronic structure analysis of the Diels-Alder cycloaddition catalyzed by alkali-exchanged faujasites

R.Y. Rohling, Ionut Tranca, E.J.M. Hensen, E.A. Pidko

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The Diels-Alder cycloaddition (DAC) reaction is a commonly employed reaction for the formation of C-C bonds. DAC catalysis can be achieved by using Lewis acids and via reactant confinement in aqueous nanocages. Low-silica alkali-exchanged faujasite catalysts combine these two factors in one material. They can be used in the tandem DAC/dehydration reaction of biomass-derived 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF) with ethylene toward p-xylene, in which the DAC reaction step initiates the overall reaction cycle. In this work, we performed periodic density functional theory (DFT) calculations on the DAC reaction between DMF and C 2H 4 in low-silica alkali(M)-exchanged faujasites (MY; Si/Al = 2.4; M = Li +, Na +, K +, Rb +, Cs +). The aim was to investigate how confinement of reactants in MY catalysts changed their electronic structure and the DAC-reactivity trend among the evaluated MY zeolites. The conventional high-silica alkali-exchanged isolated site model (MFAU; Si/Al = 47) served as a reference. The results show that confinement leads to initial-state (IS) destabilization and transition-state (TS) stabilization. Among the tested MY, most significant IS destabilization is found in RbY. Only antibonding orbital interactions between the reactants/reactive complex and cations were found, indicating that TS stabilization arises from ionic interactions. Additionally, in RbY the geometry of the transition state is geometrically most similar to that of the initial and final state. RbY also exhibits an optimal combination of the confinement-effects, resulting in having the lowest computed DAC-activation energy. The overall effect is a DAC-reactivity trend inversion in MY as compared to the trend found in MFAU where the activation energy correlates with the Lewis acidity of the exchangeable cations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14733-14743
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018


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