Glycerol hydrogenolysis to 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDO) was performed over activated carbon supported copper-based catalysts. The catalysts were prepared by impregnation using a pristine carbon support and thermally-treated carbon supports (450, 600, 750, and 1000 °C). The final hydrogen adsorption capacity, porous structure, and total acidity of the catalysts were found to be important descriptors to understand catalytic performance. Oxygen surface groups on the support controlled copper dispersion by modifying acidic and adsorption properties. The amount of oxygen species of thermally modified carbon supports was also found to be a function of its specific surface area. Carbon supports with high specific surface areas contained large amount of oxygen surface species, inducing homogeneous distribution of Cu species on the carbon support during impregnation. The oxygen surface groups likely acted as anchorage centers, whereby the more stable oxygen surface groups after the reduction treatment produced an increase in the interaction of the copper species with the carbon support, and determined catalytic performances.
Keywords: activated carbon; copper; glycerol.