On the dynamic nature of Mo sites for methane dehydroaromatization†
The mechanism of methane activation on Mo/HZSM-5 is not yet fully understood, despite the great interest in methane dehydroaromatization (MDA) to replace aromatics production in oil refineries. It is difficult to assess the exact nature of the active site due to fast coking. By pre-carburizing Mo/HZSM-5 with carbon monoxide (CO), the MDA active site formation was isolated from coke formation. With this a clear 13C NMR signal solely from the active site and not obscured by coke was obtained, and it revealed two types of likely molecular Mo (oxy-)carbidic species in addition to the β-Mo2C nanoparticles often mentioned in the literature. Furthermore, separating the active site formation from coking by pre-carburization helped us examine how methane is activated on the catalytic site by carrying out MDA using isotopically labelled methane (13CH4). Carbon originating from the pre-formed carbide was incorporated into the main products of the reaction, ethylene and benzene, demonstrating the dynamic behavior of the (oxy-)carbidic active sites.