Environmentally friendly nanoporous oxide catalysts for biodiesel synthesis

Victor S.-Y. Lin
Department of Chemistry and U.S. DOE Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University

We have developed a new cooperative catalytic system comprised of a series of bifunctional nanoporous mixed oxide materials. These materials contain both Lewis acidic and basic sites for the synthesis of biodiesel from various free fatty acid (FFA)-containing oil feedstocks, such as animal fats and restaurant waste oils. We have demonstrated that the acid and base functionalities could cooperatively catalyze both the esterification of FFAs and the transesterification of oils with short-chain alcohols (e.g. methanol and ethanol) to form alkyl esters (biodiesel). The reactivity and recyclability of these heterogeneous solid catalysts have been investigated. In the case of soybean oil, our catalyst can be recycled 20 times without any decrease in reactivity. We envision that these nanoporous mixed oxides could serve as new selective catalysts for many other important reactions involving carbonyl activation.

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