Transportation fuels such as ethanol can be obtained through thermochemical processing of biomass. Interest in the development of more selective catalysts for the conversion of biomass-derived syngas (H2 + CO) to ethanol is increasing in both academia and industry. In this work, we have evaluated the performances of K and Fe as metal promoters of a mesoporous Cu/MCM-41 catalyst and their effects on the product selectivity and especially on ethanol formation. The metal loading was 29 wt.% Cu, 2 wt.% Fe and 1.6 wt.% K. The catalysts were tested at 300 °C, 20 bar and gas-hourly-space-velocities in the range of 1500–30000 mlsyngas/gcat h; under these conditions the syngas conversion level was between 2 and 11%. The non-promoted Cu/MCM-41 catalyst showed interesting selectivity toward oxygenated compounds, mostly methanol. The addition of K as promoter increases the selectivity toward methanol even more, while the addition of Fe as promoter favors the formation of hydrocarbon compounds. When both K and Fe as promoters are incorporated into the Cu/MCM-41 catalyst, the reaction rate to oxygenated compounds is notably increased, especially for ethanol. The space time yield for ethanol for the Cu/MCM-41 catalyst is 0.3 × 10−5 carbon-mol/gcath which increases to 165.5 × 10−5 carbon-mol/gcath for the Cu-Fe-K/MCM-41 catalyst. From XPS analysis, the Cu-Fe-K/MCM-41 catalyst was found to have the following atomic composition: Cu0.34Fe0.08K0.08Si1.00. The promoting effect of both K and Fe, may be related to an increased reaction rate toward CO non-dissociation and CO-dissociation paths, respectively, which is beneficial for the ethanol formation. Further catalytic results, catalyst characterization and discussion of results are presented in this work.
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© 2016 Elsevier B.V.