• hydrogenation;
  • ethylene glycol;
  • syngas;
  • copper particles

The synthesis and utilization of mesoporous Cu-MCM-41 catalysts for hydrogenation of dimethyl oxalate to ethylene glycol is described in this article. Physicochemical properties of these Cu-MCM-41 catalysts have been investigated by N2-physisorption, X-ray diffraction, inductively coupled plasma, N2O titration, transmission electron microscopy, temperature programmed reduction, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. It was found that the copper loading significantly influenced the pore structure and copper surface area of the catalyst. High catalytic performance is obtained over a 20Cu-MCM-41 catalyst with a full DMO conversion and EG yield of 92% at a LHSV of 3.0 h−1. The catalytic performance of optimized 20Cu-MCM-41 catalyst could be attributed to the fine copper dispersion and large copper surface areas. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 2530–2539, 2013