Structure–selectivity relationship of a zirconia-based heterogeneous acid catalyst in the production of green mono- and dioleate product

Abstract

A novel catalytic technique is vital to produce mono- and dioleate (GMO and GDO) from bioglycerol: a renewable resource and by-product of biodiesel. The advantage of this invention is the direct production of GMO and GDO through catalytic approach compared to the conventional method that requires transesterification and distillation processes. In this paper, glycerol esterification with oleic acid using a catalyst was experimented. The process was carried out over a hydrophobic mesoporous zirconia–silica heterogeneous acid catalyst (ZrO2–SiO2–Me&Et–PhSO3H) with three types of sulphated zirconia catalysts (SO42−/ZrO2) to produce high-selectivity GMO and GDO products. The catalytic performance of the hydrophobic ZrO2–SiO2–Me&Et–PhSO3H catalyst was benchmarked with that of SO42−/ZrO2 which was developed from three zirconium precursors. Results showed that the pore volume and hydrophobicity of the designed catalyst greatly could influence the product selectivity, thus enabling smaller substrates GMO and GDO to be dominated in the synthesis. This finding was supported by characterisation data obtained through N2 adsorption–desorption, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. In addition, a good correlation was found between pore volume (pore size) and product selectivity. High pore volume catalyst favoured GDO production under identical reaction conditions. Pore volume and size can be used to control product sensitivity. The hydrophobicity of the catalyst was found to improve the initial reaction rate effectively.

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Acknowledgement

The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by INCREASE CNRS France and supported by the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (Malaysia, FRGS/1/2019/STG05/UNIM/02/2). Dual PhD scholarship (University of Malaya) and French government scholarship (Embassy France of Kuala Lumpur) are gratefully acknowledged. The technical support and facilities from Laboratoire de Génie Chimique and Sime Darby Plantation Research Sdn. Bhd. are highly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Pei San Kong or Mohamed Kheireddine Aroua.

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Kong, P.S., Pérès, Y., Cognet, P. et al. Structure–selectivity relationship of a zirconia-based heterogeneous acid catalyst in the production of green mono- and dioleate product. Clean Techn Environ Policy 23, 19–29 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-020-01830-1

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Keywords

  • Hydrophobic silica–zirconia-based catalyst
  • Sulphated zirconia
  • Structural
  • Selectivity
  • Esterification
  • Glycerol