Divergent pathways of acetaldehyde and ethanol decarbonylation on the Rh(111) surface Academic Article uri icon


  • The decomposition reactions of acetaldehyde and ethanol on the Rh(111) surface were compared in temperature-programmed desorption (TPD) and high-resolution electron energy loss spectroscopy (HREELS) experiments. The decarbonylation of acetaldehyde produced methane at 267 K in TPD. The selectivity to methane was dependent on the initial coverage of acetaldehyde. For acetaldehyde coverages less than 0.05 monolayer, no methane was desorbed, but for a coverage that saturated the first layer, methane was produced with 50% selectivity. Coadsorbing deuterium with a low coverage of acetaldehyde resulted in the enhancement of methane production. This result indicates that the selectivity to methane was partially controlled by the availability of hydrogen atoms on the surface required to hydrogenate the hydrocarbon species produced by acetaldehyde decarbonylation. Monodeuterated methane was the primary methane product observed after these coadsorption experiments. Thus it was concluded that acetaldehyde decarbonylates via a methyl migration mechanism on the Rh(111) surface. Decarbonylation of ethanol did not produce methane. The absence of methane production indicated that the decomposition of ethanol on the Rh(111) surface did not proceed via dehydrogenation to adsorbed acetaldehyde, but instead, ethanol appeared to dehydrogenate by methyl hydrogen abstraction resulting in the formation of an oxametallacycle. Since this proposed intermediate rapidly dehydrogenated to carbon monoxide and surface carbon, it was difficult to characterize spectroscopically. The existence of an ethanol decomposition pathway that does not include acetaldehyde intermediates indicates that ethanol formation on supported Rh catalysts may not be the result of acetaldehyde hydrogenation. Support for ethanol synthesis pathways that both do and do not include acetaldehyde can be found in previous studies of ethanol formation on supported Rh catalysts. This surface science study has allowed the identification of some of the factors that may control the selectivity of higher oxygenate decomposition/synthesis pathways. © 1991.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Catalysis

citation count

  • 150

complete list of authors


publication date

  • August 1991