Infrared study of methyl formate and formaldehyde adsorption on reduced and oxidised silica-supported copper catalysts
Infrared spectra are reported of methyl formate and formaldehyde adsorbed at 300 K on silica, Cu/SiO2 reduced in hydrogen and Cu/SiO2 which had been oxidised by exposure to nitrous oxide after reduction. Silanol groups on silica form hydrogen bonds with carbonyl groups in weakly adsorbed methyl formate molecules. Methyl formate ligates via its carbonyl groups to Cu atoms in the surface of reduced copper. A low residual concentration of surface oxygen on copper promoted the slow reaction of ligated methyl formate to give a bridging formate species on copper and adsorbed methoxy groups. Methyl formate did not ligate to an oxidised copper surface but was rapidly chemisorbed to give unidentate formate and methoxy species. Formaldehyde slowly polymerises on silica to form trioxane and other oxymethylene species. The reaction is faster over Cu/SiO2 which, in the reduced state, also catalyses the formation of bridging formate anions adsorbed on copper. The reaction between formaldehyde and oxidised Cu/SiO2 leads to both unidentate and bidentate formate and adsorbed water.