Production of hydrogen from methanol over binary Cu/ZnO catalysts Part I. Catalyst preparation and characterisation

Ignacio Melián-Cabrera, Magali Boutonnet, Johan Agrell, José L.G. Fierro

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Mixed copper–zinc oxide catalysts (Cu/ZnO) were prepared by two different techniques, i.e. from hydroxycarbonate precursors formed in aqueous solution and from oxalate precursors formed in water-in-oil microemulsion. Their physicochemical properties were characterised by nitrogen adsorption–desorption, N2O chemisorption, X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), temperature-programmed reduction (TPR) and oxidation (TPO). The BET surface areas ranged from 34 to 87 m2/g, depending on the method of preparation. Cu surface areas between 6.6 and 22 m2/g were measured. It was a general observation that catalysts prepared by microemulsion technique had lower Cu dispersions than expected (3.4–5.7%), due to a proposed partial embedding of Cu in ZnO. The catalyst prepared by carbonate co-precipitation exhibited a significantly higher Cu dispersion (10.3%). In addition, this catalyst displayed better resistance to successive TPR/TPO than the microemulsion catalysts, which exhibited significant Cu crystallite growth. However, the microemulsion route provided well-mixed materials with a narrow particle size distribution and the possibility to obtain high BET surface areas (up to 87 m2/g) by controlling the water/surfactant ratio in the microemulsion. XPS measurements revealed the existence of Cu+ species on the surface of both types of catalysts after exposure to a O2/CH3OH mixture. The surface composition of the hydroxycarbonate-derived sample was unaffected by reduction in hydrogen and exposure to O2/CH3OH, while Zn-enrichment on the surface was observed in the microemulsion catalysts after reduction, indicating sintering of the Cu particles. These observations were consistent with the TPR/TPO measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-211
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Catalysis A-General
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2003
Externally publishedYes


  • XPS
  • N2O chemisorption
  • Cu/ZnO catalyst
  • Hydroxycarbonate precursor
  • Oxalate precursor
  • Microemulsion
  • Characterisation

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