A Novel Catalyst for Propylene Production

Last Updated: February 28th, 2022 First Published :

Stable Catalyst for Propylene Production

Researchers at Hokkaido in Japan have developed a more efficient, active, and stable catalyst for the synthesis of propylene. The research shows very promising results for the chemical industry and for the sustainable production of energy. 

Propylene, also known as propene, is a colorless, flammable, gaseous hydrocarbon, obtained from petroleum. It is the second most important starting product in the petrochemical industry after ethylene. It is the raw material for a wide variety of products and tested with volatile organic compounds testing methods. Polypropylene manufacturers consume nearly two-thirds of global production. Polypropylene end uses include films, fibers, containers, packaging, and caps and closures. Propene is also used for the production of important chemicals such as propylene oxide, acrylonitrile, cumene, butyraldehyde, and acrylic acid. In the year 2013, about 85 million tonnes of propylene were processed worldwide. GC-MS analysis is used for identifying percentage purity. 

Figure: Propylene manufacturing requires volatile organic compounds testing
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

One promising technique for producing propylene is a chemical reaction, called oxidative dehydrogenation, that uses CO2 to convert propane gas into propylene by removing hydrogen. However, existing catalysts used to speed up this chemical reaction aren’t very efficient. The most common technique used for producing propylene is steam cracking. The same technology is applied from ethane to ethylene. These two conversions are the no. 2 and 1 processes in the chemical industry, as judged by their scale. In this process, propane undergoes dehydrogenation. Dehydrogenation is the process by which hydrogen is removed from an organic compound to form a new chemical. One of the factors influencing the efficiency of the reaction is the catalyst. 

 “The challenge is to develop a catalyst that will activate both reactants—propane, and CO2—without unwanted side reactions. The impurities generated are analysed through GC-MS analysis services It also needs to be stable and reusable in the long term,” explains Hokkaido University molecular engineer, Shinya Furukawa.

Researchers at Hokkaido University were able to create a catalyst that is highly active, selective, stable, and utilizes carbon dioxide efficiently. Platinum breaks chemical bonds between carbon and hydrogen, facilitating the dehydrogenation reaction. Cobalt accelerates CO2 capture and activation, and indium enhances the catalyst’s selectivity. The three metals were supported by cerium oxide, a compound commonly used in car catalytic converters.

The research team tested the performance of the catalyst at 550°C in a material testing lab and compared the results with existing catalysts. To understand the functions of the different components, they did a mechanistic study of the different components. The catalyst showed good long-term stability and reusability. The reaction produced a higher ratio of propylene and utilized more CO2 at 550°C compared to previous catalysts. 

“To date, no other catalyst has been shown to simultaneously exhibit high catalytic activity, selectivity, stability, and CO2 utilization efficiency. Our multifunctional material meets all these requirements,” says Furukawa.

This research will reduce the cost, byproduct, and steps in the industrial production of propylene. It provides insight into the design of highly efficient catalysts for petrochemical production. It also has potential benefits for carbon recycling and greenhouse gas reduction. The research was reported in the journal Nature Catalysis.


Xing, F., Nakaya, Y., Yasumura, S. et al. Ternary platinum–cobalt–indium nanoalloy on ceria as a highly efficient catalyst for oxidative dehydrogenation of propane using CO2. Nat Catal, 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41929-021-00730-x

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