A brief review is presented on acidity characterization of solid acid catalysts by means of solid-state phosphor-31 magic-angle-spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (31P MAS NMR) spectroscopy using phosphor-containing molecules as probes. It is emphasized that such a simple approach using 31P MAS NMR of adsorbed phosphorous probe molecules, namely trimethylphosphine (TMP) and trialkylphosphine oxides (R3PO), represents a unique technique in providing detailed qualitative and quantitative features, viz. type, strength, distribution, and concentration of acid sites in solid acid catalysts. In particular, it will be shown that when applied with a proper choice of probe molecules with varied sizes and results obtained from elemental analysis, the amounts and locations (intracrystalline vs. extracrystalline) of different types (Brønsted vs. Lewis) of acid sites may be determined. In addition, by incorporating the NMR results with that obtained from theoretical density functional theory (DFT) calculations, correlations between the 31P chemical shifts (δ31P) and acidic strengths of Brønsted and Lewis acid sites may also be derived, facilitating a suitable acidity scale for solid acid catalysts.
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