From molecular orbital calculations, a unified mechanism is proposed for the gasification reactions of graphite by CO2 and H2O, both uncatalyzed and catalyzed by alkali and alkaline earth catalysts. In this mechanism, there are two types of oxygen intermediates that are bonded to the active edge carbon atoms: an in-plane semiquinone type, Cf(O), and an off-plane oxygen bonded to two saturated carbon atoms that are adjacent to the semiquinone species, C(O)Cf(O). The rate-limiting step is the decomposition of these intermediates by breaking the C-C bonds that are connected to Cf(O). A new rate equation is derived for the uncatalyzed reactions, and that for the catalyzed reactions is readily available from the proposed mechanism. The proposed mechanism can account for several unresolved experimental observations: TPD and TK (transient kinetics) desorption results of the catalyzed systems, the similar activation energies for the uncatalyzed and catalyzed reactions, and the relative activities of the alkali and alkaline earth elements. The net charge of the edge carbon active site is substantially changed by gaining electron density from the alkali or alkaline earth element (by forming C-O-M, where M stands for metal). The relative catalytic activities of these elements can be correlated with their abilities of donating electrons and changing the net charge of the edge carbon atom. As shown previously (Chen, S. G.; Yang, R. T. J. Catal. 1993, 141, 102), only clusters of the alkali compounds are active. This derives from the ability of the clusters to dissociate CO2 and H2O to form O atoms and the mobility of the dissociated O atoms facilitated by the clusters.
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Unified mechanism of alkali and alkaline earth catalyzed gasification reactions of carbon by CO2 and H2O