Preparation, characterization and carrier gas transport characteristics of inorganic and organic membranes for application in lactic acid esterification with ethanol.
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OKON, E.P. 2018. Preparation, characterization and carrier gas transport characteristics of inorganic and organic membranes for application in lactic acid esterification with ethanol. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
Ethyl lactate (EL) plays a major role as green solvent and also a replacement for most petrochemical solvents. The esterification process of lactic acid and ethanol to produce EL is an equilibrium-limiting reaction and the selective removal of one of the reaction products can be improved using a membrane reactor and when coupled with a heterogeneous catalyst offers an opportunity for process intensification. This thesis investigates the batch process esterification reaction involving lactic acid (LA) and ethanol (EL) in the presence of a water selective membrane using different cation-exchange resin catalysts. The product was analysed using gas chromatograph coupled with mass spectrometry detector (GC-MS). The analytical methods used for the characterisation of the cation-exchange resins and membrane include Fourier transform infrared coupled with attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR), scanning electron microscopy attached to energy dispersive analyser (SEM/EDAX), Liquid nitrogen physisorption and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) respectively. A novel method was developed for carrying out esterification reaction in a gaseous phase system using a flat sheet polymeric membrane. Prior to the esterification reaction, different carrier gases were tested with ceramic membrane to determine the suitable carrier gases for the analysis of esterification product. The four carrier gases used for the permeation test were argon (Ar), helium (He), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2). A 15nm pore size commercially available tubular ceramic support, consisting of 77%Al2O3 and 23%TiO2 with the porosity of 45% was used for the carrier gas investigation. The support was modified with silica based on the sol-gel dip-coating techniques. The dip-coated membrane exhibited a higher molar flux with He (0.046mol m-2s-1) and Ar (0.037mol m-2s-1) with a much lower flux for N2 (0.037mol m-2s-1) and CO2 (0.035 mol m-2s-1) at 0.30 bar. Helium gas with the highest permeation rate were identified as the suitable carrier gas for the analysis of esterification product with GC-MS. The esterification reaction in the presence of four cation-exchange resins to produce ethyl lactate was carried out between 60-160 oC in a batch and membrane processes to determine the effectiveness resin catalysts for LA esterification. The effect of external mass transfer diffusion limitation between the liquid components and the resin catalysts was avoided by increasing the agitation time of the esterification reaction. The percentage conversion rate of the lactic acid feed from the batch process esterification was found to be in the range of 98.6 to 99.8%. The reaction kinetics of the esterification reaction was described based on two simplified mechanisms of Langmuir Hinshelwood model to describe the adsorption components on the surface of the catalysts. The lactic acid feed gave a conversion rate of up to 100 % confirming the effectiveness of the acetate membrane impregnated resin catalysts in the selective removal of water for the separation of ethyl lactate. The significance of producing ethyl lactate through batch process intensified by a water-selective membrane processes can be recommended for industrial LA production.