Catalysis Today, Vol.358, 387-393, 2020
Unraveling the structural properties and dynamics of sulfonated solid acid carbon catalysts with neutron vibrational spectroscopy
Last year, nearly 1 billion waste tires were disposed of globally, a number that continues to grow with the deployment of more automobiles. Recycling this hazardous waste to produce useful products is paramount towards sustainability that has a direct impact on society. In an effort to alleviate the impact of this waste, we have shown that scrap tire crumb rubber can be turned into value-added sulfonated carbon catalysts that can be used for a number of applications. Here, we analyze the sulfonated carbon catalysts with several techniques in order to elucidate the structural properties as well as the impact of pre- and post-sulfonation on the surface functionalities. Most notably, we applied neutron vibrational spectroscopy in order to better understand the surface chemistry of carbon material and resolve the role of protons in tire-derived carbon. Our results suggest that tuning the surface chemistry and the content of sulfur and hydrogen will promote Lewis-acid catalysis, which allows for important heterogeneous reactions such as esterification.