Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.142, No.18, 8211-8222, 2020
Enhanced Surface Activity of MWW Zeolite Nanosheets Prepared via a One-Step Synthesis
The synthesis of two-dimensional (2D) zeolites has garnered attention due to their superior properties for applications that span catalysis to selective separations. Prior studies of 2D zeolite catalysts demonstrated enhanced mass transport for improved catalyst lifetime and selectivity. Moreover, the significantly higher external surface area of 2D materials allows for reactions of bulky molecules too large to access interior pores. There are relatively few protocols for preparing 2D materials, owing to the difficultly of capping growth in one direction to only a few unit cells. To accomplish this, it is often necessary to employ complex, commercially unavailable organic structure-directing agents (OSDAs) prepared via multistep synthesis. However, a small subset of zeolite structures exist as naturally layered materials where postsynthesis steps can be used to exfoliate samples and produce ultrathin 2D nanosheets. In this study, we selected a common layered zeolite, the MWW framework, to explore methods of preparing 2D nanosheets via one-pot synthesis in the absence of complex organic templates. Using a combination of high-resolution microscopy and spectroscopy, we show that 2D MMW-type layers with an average thickness of 3.5 nm (ca. 1.5 unit cells) can be generated using the surfactant cetyltrimethylammonium (CTA), which operates as a dual OSDA and exfoliating agent to affect Al siting and to eliminate the need for postsynthesis exfoliation, respectively. We tested these 2D catalysts using a model reaction that assesses external (surface) Brmnsted acid sites and observed a marked increase in the conversion relative to three-dimensional MWW (MCM-22) and 2D layers prepared from postsynthesis exfoliation (ITQ-2). Collectively, our findings identify a facile and effective route to directly synthesize 2D MWW-type materials, which may prove to be more broadly applicable to other layered zeolites.