The ethanol steam reforming reaction (ESR) was investigated on unpromoted and potassium- and rubidium-promoted monoclinic zirconia-supported platinum (Pt/m-ZrO2) catalysts. Evidence from in situ diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS) characterization indicates that ethanol dissociates to ethoxy species, which undergo oxidative dehydrogenation to acetate followed by acetate decomposition. The acetate decomposition pathway depends on catalyst composition. The decarboxylation pathway tends to produce higher overall hydrogen selectivity and is the most favored route at high alkali loading (2.55 wt.% K and higher or 4.25 wt.% Rb and higher). On the other hand, decarbonylation is a significant route for the undoped catalyst or when a low alkali loading (e.g., 0.85% K or 0.93% Rb) is used, thus lowering the overall H2 selectivity of the process. Results of in situ DRIFTS and the temperature-programmed reaction of ESR show that alkali doping promotes forward acetate decomposition while exposed metallic sites tend to facilitate decarbonylation. In previous work, 1.8 wt.% Na was found to hinder decarbonylation completely. Due to the fact that 1.8 wt.% Na is atomically equivalent to 3.1 wt.% K and 6.7 wt.% Rb, the results show that less K (2.55% K) or Rb (4.25% Rb) is needed to suppress decarbonylation; that is, more basic cations are more efficient promoters for improving the overall hydrogen selectivity of the ESR process.
Keywords: DRIFTS; XANES; basicity; ethanol steam reforming; potassium; rubidium; zirconia.