Producing biodiesel from the transesterification of plant-derived triglycerides with methanol is an extensively commercialized process. As a by-product, impure glycerol is obtained amounting for roughly 10 % of the mass of the biodiesel created. To improve the viability of the process, utilization of this waste glycerol is important.
Muhammad Haider and colleagues, Cardiff University, UK, showed that crude glycerol can be reacted with water over a cerium dioxide catalyst to produce methanol in high yields in a one-step low-pressure process. According to the team, their reaction has never been discussed in the literature before. It can take place either via a double dehydration to acrolein or via the ethylene glycol radical and hydroxyethanal and shows that molecules containing at least two hydroxyl groups can be converted into methanol.
The work is still at a preliminary stage, but the researchers hope that it allows to produce biodiesel entirely from renewable resources instead of using fossil fuel.
- Efficient green methanol synthesis from glycerol,
Muhammad H. Haider, Nicholas F. Dummer, David W. Knight, Robert L. Jenkins, Mark Howard, Jacob Moulijn, Stuart H. Taylor, Graham J. Hutchings,
Nat. Chem. 2015.