Nat Commun. 2022 Aug 17;13(1):4850. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32563-y.
Carbon-carbon bond cleavage mechanisms play a key role in the selective deconstruction of alkanes and polyolefins. Here, we show that the product distribution, which encompasses carbon range and formation of unsaturated and isomerization products, serves as a distinctive feature that allows the reaction pathways of different catalysts to be classified. Co, Ni, or Ru nanoparticles immobilized on amorphous silica-alumina, Zeo-Y and ZSM-5, were evaluated as catalysts in the deconstruction of n-hexadecane model substrate with hydrogen to delineate between different mechanisms, i.e., monofunctional- (acid site dominated) or bifunctional-hydrocracking (acid site & metal site) versus hydrogenolysis (metal site dominated), established from the product distributions. The ZSM-5-based catalysts were further studied in the depolymerization of polyethylene. Based on these studies, the catalysts are plotted on an activity-mechanism map that functions as an expandable basis to benchmark catalytic activity and to identify optimal catalysts that afford specific product distributions. The systematic approach reported here should facilitate the acceleration of catalyst discovery for polyolefin depolymerization.