Loughborough University
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Synthesis of n-hexyl acetate in batch and chromatographic reactors

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posted on 2011-06-24, 08:39 authored by Dipesh Patel
Petrochemical and fine chemical industries face a daunting problem in recovering acetic acid from its aqueous solutions. The recovery of acetic acid could be done through esterification reaction. However, esterification is an equilibrium limited reaction. Multi-functional reactors such as chromatographic reactor (CR) and reactive distillation column (RDC) are promising technologies mainly for equilibrium limited reactions wherein reaction and separation of products are carried out in a single equipment that tends to shift the equilibrium towards the desired direction which is not possible in a classical batch reactor. Physical and chemical characterisation of ion exchange resin catalysts such as scanning electron microscopy, Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area measurement, pore size distribution, elemental analysis, true density and particle size distribution were carried out to access the catalysts performance for n-hexyl acetate synthesis. Esterification of acetic acid with n-hexanol was studied with both dilute and concentrated acid in the presence of cation exchange resins (macroporous and gelular) in a jacketed stirred batch reactor to synthesise a value added ester, namely n-hexyl acetate and also to study the recovery of acetic acid from the waste aqueous streams. The effect of various parameters such as speed of agitation, catalyst particle size, feed mole ratio of n-hexanol to acetic acid, reaction temperature, catalyst loading and reusability of catalysts was studied for the optimisation of the reaction condition in a batch reactor. The non-ideality of each component in the reacting mixture was accounted for by using the activity coefficient via the use of the UNIFAC group contribution method. The kinetic data were correlated with both pseudo-homogeneous (PH) and adsorption based heterogeneous reaction rate models, e.g., Eley-Rideal (ER), Langmuir-Hinshelwood-Hougen-Watson (LHHW), and the modified LHHW (ML). Pseudo-homogeneous (PH) model gave the best representation of the kinetic data found experimentally. The feasibility of reactive distillation for the recovery of acetic acid using n-hexanol was evaluated through residue curve map (RCM) determination experiments. RCM provides information to a design engineer of the existence of separation boundaries imposed by the singular points corresponding to the reactive/non-reactive azeotropes, thus provides an insight into the feasibility of reactive distillation for this purpose. A laboratory scale batch chromatographic reactor was designed and constructed. Batch chromatographic reactor experiments were carried out using different parameters such as feed flow rate, feed mole ratio of n-hexanol to acetic acid, desorbent (n-hexanol) flow rate and reaction step to maximise the formation of n-hexyl acetate as well to achieve complete conversion of acetic acid. Continuous chromatographic reactor was designed, constructed and commissioned on the basis of the results obtained from the batch chromatographic reactor experiments. The experiments carried out in continuous chromatographic reactor correlated very well with the results from the batch chromatographic reactor for the optimised condition.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Chemical Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Dipesh Patel

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID



  • en


Basu Saha ; Richard Wakeman ; Danish Malik

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral