Sci Adv. 2023 Sep 15;9(37):eadi8219. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adi8219. Epub 2023 Sep 15.
Nonoxidative propane dehydrogenation (PDH) produces on-site propylene for value-added chemicals. While commercial, its modest selectivity and catalyst deactivation hamper the process efficiency and limit operation to lower temperatures. We demonstrate PDH in a microwave (MW)-heated reactor over PtSn/SiO2 catalyst pellets loaded in a SiC monolith acting as MW susceptor and a heat distributor while ensuring comparable conditions with conventional reactors. Time-on-stream experiments show active and stable operation at 500°C without hydrogen addition. Upon increasing temperature or feed partial pressure at high space velocity, catalysts under MWs show resistance in coking and sintering, high activity, and selectivity, starkly contrasting conventional reactors whose catalyst undergoes deactivation. Mechanistic differences in coke formation are exposed. Gas-solid temperature gradients are computationally investigated, and nanoscale temperature inhomogeneities are proposed to rationalize the different performances of the heating modes. The approach highlights the great potential of electrification of endothermic catalytic reactions.