Acid-catalyzed etherification of bio-glycerol and isobutylene over sulfonic mesostructured silicas
Sulfonic-acid functionalized mesostructured silicas have demonstrated an excellent catalytic behavior in the etherification of glycerol with isobutylene to yield tert-butylated derivates. Di-tert-butylglycerols (DTBG) and tri-tert-butylglycerol (TTBG) have shown to be valuable fuel additives leading to decreases in the emission of particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and unregulated aldehydes. Likewise, said ethers can also act as cold flow improvers for use in biodiesel, reducing also its viscosity. The activities and selectivities achieved over sulfonic acid-functionalized mesostructured silicas are comparable or even superior to those displayed by widely-used macroporous commercial acid resins. Under optimized reaction conditions, these mesostructured catalysts yield a complete glycerol conversion with a combined selectivity towards DTBG and TTBG up to ca. 90%. Furthermore, no formation of undesirable isobutylene oligomers is observed. The acid strength of the sulfonic acid sites has also been found to be an important factor affecting the catalytic performance of these materials.
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