Applied Catalysis A: General, Vol.574, 105-113, 2019
Hydrophobic WO3/SiO2 catalyst for the nitration of aromatics in liquid phase
WO3/SiO2 solid acid catalyst synthesized using sol gel method has shown promising activity (up to 65% conversion) for aromatic nitration in liquid phase using commercial nitric acid (70%) as nitrating agent without using any sulfuric acid. The water formed during the reaction as well as water from dilute nitric acid (70%) was removed azeotropically, however due to the hydrophilic nature of the catalyst, some water gets strongly adsorbed on catalyst surface forming a barrier layer between catalyst and organics. This prevents effective adsorption of substrate on catalyst surface for its subsequent reaction. To improve the activity further, the hydrophilic/hydrophobic nature of the catalyst was altered by post modification by grafting with commercial short chain organosilane (Dynasylan 9896). The modified 20% WO3/SiO2 catalyst when used for o-xylene nitration in liquid phase, showed significant increase in the conversion from 65% to 80% under identical reaction conditions. Catalyst characterization revealed decrease in the surface area of 20% WO3/SiO2 from 356 m(2)/g to 302 m(2)/g after grafting with Dynasylan 9896. The fine dispersion of WO3 particles (2-5 run) on silica support was not affected due to modification. NMR and FTIR study revealed the decrease in surface hydroxyl groups imparting hydrophobicity to the catalyst. Interestingly the total acidic sites of the catalyst remained almost unaltered (0.54 mmol NH3/g) even after modification. Even though, the acidity and other characteristics of the catalyst did not change appreciably, there was a considerable increase in the o-xylene conversion which can be ascribed to the hydrophobic nature of the catalyst.