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Sibo Lin

Catalysis 2022
Sibo Lin, Speaker at Catalysis Conference
Aramco Americas - Boston Research Center, United States
Title : Ethylene Dimerization: Development of Anti-Fouling Agents


Titanium- and aluminum-catalyzed ethylene dimerization  to 1-butene (AlphaButol process) has been practiced industrially for decades, yet inevitable reactor fouling with polyethylene byproduct remains a fundamental challenge. Spectroscopic data has shown that a complex mixture of Ti(III) and Ti(IV) species are formed, depending on the Al/Ti ratio and presence of ligands such as tetrahydrofuran. This concomitant mixture of species has frustrated mechanistic analysis and rational prevention of reactor fouling. Herein, we utilize computational molecular modelling (extended tight binding theory and density functional theory as implemented in XTBDFT) to examine the mechanism of 1-butene and polyethylene formation with computational molecular modelling, and we develop novel anti-fouling agents that effectively reduce polyethylene formation while retaining 1-butene productivity. This technology has been patented and licensed across the industry.

Audience take-away:

  • Industrial vs. academic research priorities
  • Application of molecular modeling to improving catalysis
  • Importance of conformational searching for mechanistic molecular modelling


Sibo Lin obtained his B.S. Chemistry degree from Indiana University in 2008, followed by his Ph.D. Inorganic Chemistry degree from Caltech in 2014. He spent 4 years as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, and then moved across the street to start his industrial career at Aramco’s Boston Downstream Research Center (2018 – present), where he serves as a project lead, developing catalysts for olefin oligomerization and membranes for sour gas separations.