In this work, a series of Cu/ZnO/ZnAl2O4 catalysts with different metal molar fractions (Cu:Zn:Al) were successfully prepared using a one-pot method via the evaporation-induced self-assembly (EISA) of Pluronic P123 and the corresponding metal precursors. The catalysts were characterized using N2 adsorption, H2 temperature-programmed reduction (H2-TPR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray photoelectron spectra (XPS). The catalytic properties of the resulting Cu/ZnO/ZnAl2O4 with different molar fractions of metals were investigated for the selective hydrogenolysis of glycerol to 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDO). It was observed that the ZnAl2O 4 support exerts a strong positive effect on the catalytic activity of the copper-based catalysts, and the presence of ZnO further improves the catalytic activity of the Cu/ZnAl2O4 catalysts. The Cu/ZnO/ZnAl2O4 catalyst (Cu10Zn 30Al60, Cu/Zn/Al molar ratio is 10:30:60), which was the best catalyst, exhibited the highest yield (79%) of 1,2-PDO with 85.8% glycerol conversion and 92.1% 1,2-PDO selectivity at 180 °C reaction temperature in 80 wt% glycerol aqueous solution over 10 h reaction time. The high catalytic activity was attributed to the presence of the ZnAl2O4 support, the strong interaction between ZnO and Cu nanoparticles and the small particle size of ZnO and Cu. Moreover, the Cu/ZnO/ZnAl2O4 catalysts exhibited higher stability than Cu/ZnO and Cu/ZnO/Al2O 3 catalysts prepared by a co-precipitation method during consecutive cycling experiments, which is due to the high chemical and thermal stability of crystalline ZnAl2O4 under harsh reaction conditions. This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry.
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