Solvent-activated Hf-containing zeolites enable selective and continuous glucose-fructose isomerisation

Luca Botti, Simon A Kondrat, Ricardo Navar, Daniele Padovan, Juan S Martinez-Espin, Sebastian Meier, Ceri Hammond*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The isomerisation of glucose to fructose is a critical step towards manufacturing petroleum-free chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. Here we show that Hf-containing zeolites are unique catalysts for this reaction, enabling true thermodynamic equilibrium to be achieved in a single step during intensified continuous operation, which no chemical or biological catalyst has yet been able to achieve. Unprecedented single pass yields of 58 % are observed at a fructose selectivity of 94 %, and continuous operation for over 100 hours is demonstrated. The unexpected performance of the catalyst is realised following a period of activation within the reactor, during which time interaction with the solvent generates a state of activity that is absent in the synthesised catalyst. Mechanistic studies by X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, chemisorption FTIR, operando UV-Vis and 1 H- 13 C HSQC NMR indicate that activity arises from isolated Hf(IV) atoms with monofunctional acidic properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAngewandte Chemie International Edition
Issue number45
Pages (from-to)20017-20023
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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© 2020 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


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