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Sustainable production of 1,2-propanediol: Clean hydrogenolysis of glycerol over highly stable Cu-Ce/SiO2 nanocatalyst

Z. Huang, F. Cui, J. Chen, C. Xia
Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, CN

Keywords: glycerol, hydrogenolysis, 1, 2-propanediol, Cu-Ce/SiO2 catalyst, long lifetime stability


Large quantities of glycerol are available as a reaction coproduct owing to the rapid development of biodiesel production by transesterification of vegetable oils and animal fats. The hydrogenolysis of glycerol to propanediols is one process being evaluated to increase the profitability of biodiesel production. Previously, we found that the Cu/SiO2 catalyst with high dispersion prepared by precipitation-gel (PG) method showed high activity and selectivity in the clean hydrogenolysis of glycerol to 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDO) (Chem. Mater., 2008, 20, 5090-5099). We also found that the Cu/SiO2 nanomaterials prepared by PG method exhibited high thermal stability in wide CuO contents (J. Phys. Chem. C, 2010, 114, 16104-16113). Nonetheless, the long-term stability of this single-component catalyst is unsatisfactory, as its activity deactivated rapidly after around 220 h reaction. To increase the stability of the Cu/SiO2 catalyst, cerium was doped as a structure promoter. The incorporation of appropriate amount of Ce could greatly improve the structure stability of the Cu/SiO2 nanocatalyst, and as a result, profoundly increase the long-term stability of the Ce-promoted Cu/SiO2 catalyst. No apparent decrease in activity was observed over the Ce-promoted Cu/SiO2 catalyst even after 1000 h of reaction. The industrial utilization of this highly stable Cu-Ce/SiO2 catalyst is promising.
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