Conversion, Stability, and Selectivity Improvements Through Catalyst Development for the Reductive Etherification Reaction

Glenn Hafenstine

Research output: NRELPresentation


Economical pathways from lignocellulosic non-food biomass feedstocks to biofuels with appropriate fuel properties are necessary for displacing fossil-fuel derived diesel use in medium-/heavy duty vehicles. Oxygenated compounds have recently shown promise due to low sooting tendencies and autoignition properties and molecules with sufficiently high carbon numbers can meet the requisite standards for water solubility and flash point. Coupling waste biomass derived small molecules into bioblendstock targets through the reductive etherification reaction shows potential for increasing molecular weight without losing the advantages of oxygenates. However, the transition to industrial viability for this process is limited by strong catalyst deactivation in typical flow reactor systems. Strong acid resins such as Amberlyst-15 (A-15) show excellent activity in batch reactions but are limited to low temperatures and are poisoned by the side-product, water. In this talk, I will describe our recent work in catalyst synthesis and testing to select superior options with improved aqueous and thermal stability in reductive etherification flow reactions. Water-tolerant solid acid catalysts have potential to improve the conversion and selectivity to the ether target at temperatures above the degradation point of A-15. Analysis techniques such as physisorption, chemisorption, x-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy are being used to characterize the active sites. These techniques are also being used to evaluate degradation of the catalyst after extensive flow reactions in addition to comparative efficiency testing with standardized cyclohexene hydrogenation reactions. Finally, I will discuss a demonstration of the full pathway from bio-derived butyric acid to the performance-advantaged ether product and the additional obstacles from side-products and purification limitations in the preliminary upgrading reactions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the ACS Fall 2019 National Meeting, 25-29 August 2019, San Diego, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-74603


  • bioblendstock
  • biofuels
  • lignocellulosic feedstocks
  • reductive etherification


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