Upgrading biomass pyrolysis vapors over β-zeolites: role of silica-to-alumina ratio†
The conversion of biomass primary pyrolysis vapors over several β-zeolites with silica-to-alumina ratios (SAR) varying from 21 to 250 was carried out in a flow microreactor to investigate the effect of number of acid sites on product speciation and deactivation of the catalyst. Experiments were conducted using a horizontal fixed bed semi-batch reactor in which up to 40 discrete 50 mg boats of biomass were pyrolyzed and the vapors upgraded over 0.5 g of the catalyst. Products were measured with a molecular beam mass spectrometer (MBMS). These studies were complemented using a tandem micropyrolyzer connected to a GCMS (py-GCMS) for speciation and quantifying the products. In the py-GCMS experiments, several 0.5 mg loads of pine were pyrolyzed sequentially and the vapors upgraded over 4 mg of catalyst. In all of these experiments, real-time measurements of the products formed were conducted as the catalyst aged and deactivated during upgrading. The results from these experiments showed that: (1) fresh catalyst for β-zeolites with lower SAR (more acid sites) produced primarily aromatic hydrocarbons and olefins with no detectable oxygen-containing species; (2) a suite of oxygenated products was observed from fresh catalysts with high SAR (few acid sites), indicating that 0.5 g of these catalyst materials did not have sufficient acid sites to deoxygenate vapors produced from pyrolysis of 50 mg of pine. This suite of oxygen containing products consisted of furans, phenol and cresols. The amount of coke deposited on each catalyst and the yield of aromatic hydrocarbons increased with the number of acid sites. However, while the catalysts were active, the biomass selectivity towards coke and hydrocarbons remained essentially constant on the catalysts of varying SAR.