Theoretical study of syngas hydrogenation to methanol on the polar Zn-terminated ZnO(0001) surface

Ya Fan Zhao, Roger Rousseau, Jun Li, Donghai Mei

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Methanol synthesis from syngas (CO/CO 2/H 2) hydrogenation on the perfect Zn-terminated polar ZnO(0001) surface has been investigated using periodic density functional theory calculations. Our results show that direct CO 2 hydrogenation to methanol is unlikely because, in the presence of surface atomic H and O, the highly stable formate (HCOO) and carbonate (CO 3) readily produced from CO 2 with low barriers of 0.11 and 0.09 eV will eventually accumulate and block the active sites of the ZnO(0001) surface. In contrast, methanol synthesis from CO hydrogenation is thermodynamically and kinetically feasible on the perfect ZnO(0001) surface. CO can be consecutively hydrogenated into formyl (HCO), formaldehyde (H 2CO), and methoxy (H 3CO) intermediates, leading to the final formation of methanol (H 3COH). The reaction route via hydroxymethyl (H 2COH) intermediate, a previously proposed species on the defective O-terminated ZnO(0001̄) surface, is kinetically inhibited on the perfect ZnO(0001) surface. The rate-determining step in the consecutive CO hydrogenation route is the hydrogenation of H 3CO to H 3COH. We also find that this final hydrogenation step is pronouncedly facilitated in the presence of water by lowering the activation barrier from 1.02 to 0.55 eV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15974-15985
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Energy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films

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