Catalytic Monoliths for Biodiesel Production

  • Umi Asli

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Although the transesterification reaction of triglycerides with alcohols is well known and practiced on a commercial scale (using acid or alkaline catalysts), there is plenty of scope to improve this process. One approach involves the use of heterogeneous catalysts that could be retained in a fixed bed, and this would enable a continuous process to be developed. With this aim in mind, zinc proline (Zn(C5H8NO2)2) was used as a catalyst, which was coated onto a cordierite monolith support (62 cells/cm2). Two different coating methods were explored, and SEM images of the surface revealed interesting crystal structures on the surface of the cordierite. Experiments were then performed in a batch reactor (120 ml) to assess the activity of the catalyst (molar ratio methanol:rapeseed oil = 12:1, T = 195ºC and P = 20 bar, 2 h duration). Although high conversions could be achieved, the catalyst was found to lose activity with time, and even the cordierite support was also found to be catalytically active. These aspects were explored further, in a continuous flow reactor, which had an i.d. = 6.2 mm, and multiple heated sections (500 mm each) into which pieces (10 mm long) of catalyst coated monoliths were inserted. Experiments were performed with packed lengths of 200 and 400 mm, and with liquid flows ranging from 0.1 to 2.9 ml min-1. Although it was shown that high conversions can be achieved over extended run-times (e.g. 100 to 200 min), it was clear that the catalyst was losing its activity. Measurements also showed, that during the course of an experiment, Zn was leaching, and this clearly contributed to catalyst deactivation Despite the loss in activity of the zinc proline catalyst, the reaction system developed in this thesis was shown to work well, and that it could be used to evaluate the performance of catalytically coated sections of monolith. To demonstrate the use of this system, a few scoping studies were also performed using SrO as a catalyst, which was coated onto the cordierite monolith.
Date of Award1 Feb 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStan Kolaczkowski (Supervisor)


  • zinc proline
  • monolith
  • biodiesel

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