On the Role of Cu+ and CuNi Alloy Phases in Mesoporous CuNi Catalyst for Furfural Hydrogenation

Wenting Fang, Sihang Liu, Astrid Kjær Steffensen, Leonhard Schill, Georg Kastlunger, Anders Riisager*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Bimetallic catalysts display high reactivity in valorization of biomass-derived chemicals. In this work, KIT-6-templated mesoporous CuNiOx catalysts were synthesized and applied for the selective hydrogenation of furfural (FF) to furfuryl alcohol (FA) under relatively mild reaction conditions. A combination of experimental characterization and density functional theory calculations unveiled the critical role of Cu+ species in hydrogen activation and corroborated a direct experimental correlation between the Cu+ concentration and overall hydrogenation activities. Furthermore, a CuNi alloy phase was attributed as the active adsorption site for FF with a difference in adsorption configurations being responsible for a shift in product selectivity from furfuryl alcohol toward tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol on Ni-rich phases. Thus, in contrast to pure Cu and Ni catalysts, a close interplay between Cu+ sites and a CuNi alloy phase is proposed to enhance activity of the CuNi catalysts in FF hydrogenation. The structure-activity relationships established in the work clarify the role of bimetallic CuNi catalysts in this important reaction and offer a rationale for similar catalytic systems involving hydrogenation of C═O or/and C═C groups.

Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number13
Pages (from-to)8437-8444
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Cu species
  • CuNi catalysts
  • Density functional theory
  • Furfural hydrogenation
  • Structure−activity relationship


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