Dipole effect on ethylene epoxidation: Influence of alkali metals and chlorine
Journal article, 2018

Ethylene epoxidation is one of the most important selective oxidation reactions in industry and is almost invariably carried out on silver catalysts. Empirically it is known that moderate selectivity of silver can be greatly enhanced with cesium and chlorine dopants, whereas a mechanistic understanding of the underlying reason remains elusive. In this work, we present a first-principles explanation of the dipole effect on reaction selectivity, which could, in principle, be effected by alkali metals. We show that, on a silver surface, alkali metals work in a similar fashion thanks to their low electronegative character. The selectivity is impacted by inducing electric dipoles on the catalytic surface, whereas the electronic properties of the catalyst remain largely unperturbed. Cesium, as the least electronegative metal, shows the most pronounced effect. This effect is shown to persist when alkali metals are treated as “naked” atoms or, more realistically, when oxidized. Additionally, alkali metals increase activity of the catalyst by favoring the rate-determining step of oxygen dissociation. Chlorine, which is strongly electronegative, acts differently. Subsurface chlorine would increase selectivity through the same mechanism, while surface chlorine stabilizes alkali metals and moderately increases selectivity. Interplay of both dopants is needed to precisely tailor the catalyst for the best performance.










Matej Hus

Chalmers, Physics, Chemical Physics

Anders Hellman

Chalmers, Physics, Chemical Physics

Journal of Catalysis

0021-9517 (ISSN) 1090-2694 (eISSN)

Vol. 363 18-25

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (SO 2010-2017, EI 2018-)


Materials Science


C3SE (Chalmers Centre for Computational Science and Engineering)

Subject Categories

Other Chemical Engineering

Other Chemistry Topics

Organic Chemistry



More information

Latest update