(629af) Feedstock to Tailpipe: A Catalysis Approach
The ever growing demand of energy independence has caused significant research in alternative fuels. The work herein is a part of a collaborative effort of developing algae to liquid fuels where this specific work involves developing catalyst for chemical transformation. While the algae production is being scaled up it is necessary to model the feed oils with vegetable oil. Algal oil mostly comprised of triglycerides and free fatty acids similar to seed oils. The catalyst developed is a pillared clay material chosen for textural and chemical properties as far as surface area, thermal stability, pore size, and acidity. Larger pore size is required to allow accessibility of reactant with the active sites. The acidity is of a lower to moderate strength to balance the activity with unwanted side products such as gas and coke. The catalysts has been fully characterized by nitrogen isotherm at 77K, temperature programmed desorption of ammonia, TEM, XRD, and pulsed chemisorption when needed. The catalyst was used in transesterification reaction of 65% of triolein with methanol to compare the results to traditional homogeneous base catalyst (sodium methoxide) and homogeneous acid catalyst (sulfuric acid). The reaction was carried out in a pressurized vessel to ensure that methanol is in the liquid phase. The products were analyzed by means of gas chromatography.