Membrane contactor reactor for transesterification of triglycerides heterogeneously catalyzed

Research paper by Dilson C.Maia Filho, Vera M. Salim, Cristiano P. Borges

Indexed on: 08 Aug '16Published on: 07 Aug '16Published in: Chemical Engineering and Processing: Process Intensification


A membrane reactor was developed for coupling heterogeneously catalyzed transesterification and glycerol extraction using a membrane contactor. The membrane contactor has two compartments of 0.4L separated by a nylon or PTFE microporous membrane. Ion-exchange resins were used as a catalyst under mild conditions with or without glycerol extraction. Water and ethanol were used as the extraction phase. The mass transfer coefficients of the reaction medium components were estimated using a synthetic reaction medium and different extraction phases. The reaction was followed by triglyceride conversion measuring free glycerol and combined glycerol. Triglyceride conversion increased by 18% when using an anionic resin (Amberlyst® A26) and ethanol as the extracting phase. A simplified mass transfer model was developed and applied to simulate the coupled system. The simulated results indicated that a ratio of membrane area to the reactor volume of 2.2 cm−1 results in a 97.3% reduction of the glycerol content in the reaction medium. These results demonstrate the potential of coupling transesterification and a membrane contactor by shifting the reaction equilibrium and reducing the purification steps of the process.

Graphical abstract 10.1016/j.cep.2016.08.001.jpg