A Novel, Low Temperature Synthesis Method of Dimethyl Ether Over Cu–Zn Catalyst Based on Self-Catalysis Effect of Methanol

A new DME synthesis route from syngas at a relatively low temperature (443 K) has been developed for the first time by the combination of a conventional DME synthesis catalyst (Cu/ZnO:HZSM-5 catalyst) with methanol as a catalytic solvent. The addition of methanol to the reaction system is the key to the success of DME synthesis at this temperature. Indeed, a CO conversion of 29 and 43% with a DME selectivity of 69 and 68% were achieved at 443 or 453 K, respectively, and 4 MPa, when methanol was used as a catalytic solvent. Importantly, no other byproducts including methanol and hydrocarbons were observed in the DME product attained, suggesting no significant subsequent purification stages. Assuming no scale up problems, this process potentially provides a high purity of DME with less energy consumption, and so offers an opportunity for the economically viable future sustainable production of DME.