Understanding the reactions of heteroatomic cyclic compounds is essential for developing good catalysts for the upgrading of bio-oils into liquid fuels. The present study presents the reaction network of 2-methyltetrahydrofuran (2-MTHF, C5H10O), a bio-oil model compound, on silica-supported nickel phosphide at 0.1 MPa and 300 °C. Contact time experiments showed that 2-MTHF reacted to first form 1-pentanol and 2-pentanol, then n-pentanal, 2-pentanone, and 1- and 2-pentenes, and finally n-pentane. The observation is consistent with a reaction network in which adsorption of 2-MTHF is followed by rate-determining ring-opening steps on the more hindered side (path I) or the more open side (path II) to first produce adsorbed alcohols. The alcohols then transform into adsorbed aldehyde, ketone, and pentene species which can simply desorb or react to produce the final product n-butane (decarbonylation of adsorbed n-pentanal) or n-pentane (hydrogenation of adsorbed pentenes). Kinetic modeling of the proposed reaction network gave good agreement with the experimental data and predicted that path I intermediates would be more numerous than path II intermediates on the surface. A series of in situ FTIR results gave further support for the mechanism with the presence of the CO and CC bands of the adsorbed aldehyde/ketone and alkene species. Transient experiments gave evidence for the model calculations that predicted more plentiful path I surface species.
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