Catalytic arene alkylation over H-Beta zeolite

influence of zeolite shape selectivity and reactant nucleophilicity

Xin Zeng, Zichun Wang*, Jia Ding, Leizhi Wang, Yijiao Jiang, Catherine Stampfl, Michael Hunger, Jun Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Renewable arenes and aromatic alcohols can be derived from lignocellulose by biorefineries, which has been considered as a sustainable alternative to replace petrochemical feedstocks in the synthesis of monobenzylation products, key industrial intermediates, via benzylation reactions. Zeolites with micropores are the most widely used catalysts in the benzylation of arenes, however, their performance suffers from diffusion limitations in converting large arenes. In this work, mesoporous and microporous H–Beta zeolites were prepared and applied in the systematic study of benzylation of arenes (benzene, toluene, p-xylene and mesitylene) with benzyl alcohol (BA). The porous structure of these zeolites has been confirmed by XRD, BET and TEM techniques. The catalytically active Brønsted acid sites (BAS) were determined by quantitative 1H magic-angle spinning (MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments. The benzylation studies have shown that introducing mesopores into H–Beta zeolites can significantly increase the diffusion/access of arenes to surface sites, particularly for bulky arenes (e.g. mesitylene), while micropores are mainly selective for the conversion of small arenes (e.g. benzene). Increasing the nucleophilicity of arenes with more alkyl groups can enhance their catalytic performance in mesopores, however, the increase hinders their conversion in micropores because of the shape selectivity due to their increasing molecular size. Compared to mesopores, micropores promote the conversion of small arenes (e.g. benzene), which can be additionally enhanced by a high Brønsted acidity. Therefore, introducing a suitable porosity balanced with acidity are keys in the tailoring of the catalytic performance of H-Beta zeolites for target benzylation reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Catalysis
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Beta zeolite
  • Benzylation reaction
  • Shape selectivity
  • Reactant nucleophilicity
  • Solid-state NMR spectroscopy

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