We report the first direct detection of ethyl radical in the pyrolysis of ethane. Observation of this vital intermediate was made possible in this extremely reactive environment by the use of a microreactor coupled with synchrotron radiation and photoelectron photoion coincidence (PEPICO) spectroscopy, despite its short lifetime and low concentration. Together with ab-initio master equation-calculated rates and fully coupled computational fluid dynamics simulations, our measurements show that even under the low pressures and short residence times in our experiment, ethyl formation can only be explained by bimolecular reactions; the most important is the catalytic attack of ethane by H atoms, which are then regenerated by decomposition of the nascent ethyl radicals. Our results complete the observation of all hypothesized intermediates in this industrially important process and highlight the need for further studies under additional conditions using similar methods to improve existing models and optimize process chemistries.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemistry (all)