A novel approach to understanding and modelling performance evolution of catalysts during their initial operation under reaction conditions – Case study of vanadium phosphorus oxides for n-butane selective oxidation

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Colleges, School and Institutes


In heterogeneous catalysis, catalyst precursor activation and subsequent initial operation (‘conditioning’) under reaction conditions are often highly dynamic steps which are important in delivering effective catalyst performance over time scales of years. In many cases however, the phenomena occurring in both steps are often poorly understood. A novel approach to assess the conditioning step, comprising advanced catalyst testing methods in micro-reactors, catalyst characterisation and detailed kinetic and activity modelling techniques is demonstrated for a model system: the selective oxidation of n-butane to maleic anhydride (MA) using a pre-activated vanadium phosphorus oxide (VPO) catalyst. A transient kinetic model for the conditioning step is presented which describes the decline of population of active sites for three reaction pathways on the catalyst surface over time. Two reaction pathways, n-butane --> MA and n-butane --> COx decay similarly with time whilst a third, MA --> COx declines very sharply. The approach used provides important mechanistic information on catalyst reaction kinetics whilst also providing understanding the impact of reaction conditions on the catalyst during conditioning.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
JournalJournal of Catalysis
Early online date28 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • Catalyst, VPO, Conditioning, Micro-reactor, Kinetic modelling, Activity