Hierarchical Structure of NiMo Hydrodesulfurization Catalysts Determined by Ptychographic X-Ray Computed Tomography

J. Ihli (Corresponding author), L. Bloch, Frank Krumeich, K. Wakonig, M. Holler, M. Guizar-Sicairos, Thomas Weber, J. Cesar da Silva, Jeroen A. Van Bokhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrodesulphurization, the removal of sulphur from crude oils, is an essential catalytic process in the petroleum industry safeguarding the production of clean hydrocarbons. Sulphur removal is critical for the functionality of downstream processes and vital to the elimination of environmental pollutants. The effectiveness of such an endeavour is among other factors determined by the structural arrangement of the heterogeneous catalyst. Namely, the accessibility of the catalytically active molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) slabs located on the surfaces of a porous alumina carrier. Here, we examined a series of pristine sulfided Mo and NiMo hydrodesulphurization catalysts of increasing metal loading prepared on commercial alumina carriers using ptychographic X‐ray computed nanotomography. Structural analysis revealed a build consisting of two interwoven support matrix elements differing in nanoporosity. With increasing metal loading, approaching that of industrial catalysts, these matrix elements exhibit a progressively dissimilar MoS2 surface coverage as well as MoS2 cluster formation at the matrix element boundaries. This is suggestive of metal deposition limitations and/ or catalyst activation and following prohibitive of optimal catalytic utilization. These results will allow for diffusivity calculations, a better rationale of current generation catalyst performance as well as a better distribution of the active phase in next‐generation hydrodesulphurization catalysts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17266-17271
Number of pages6
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2020


  • heterogeneous catalysis
  • hydrodesulfurization
  • molybdenum disulphide
  • ptychographic tomography
  • supported catalyst


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