Catalytic conversion of glycerol to allyl alcohol; effect of a sacrificial reductant on the product yield†
A continuous process for the conversion of glycerol to allyl alcohol, where ammonia or organic acids are added to the feed as sacrificial reductants, was investigated. Significant enhancement on the rate of formation and yield of the allyl alcohol is observed with some of the reducing agents examined over an alumina-supported iron catalyst. Optimising the molar ratio of the reductant relative to feed glycerol results in an increase in the yield of allyl alcohol from 9% (in the absence of additives) to 11.3% with ammonia, 15.1% with ammonium hydroxide, 17.8% with oxalic acid and 19.5% with formic acid. Moreover, the addition of other organic acids, which are produced in a typical glycerol conversion experiment, was studied. However, acetic and propanoic acids had little effect on the rate of formation of allyl alcohol. Analysis of the product distribution in the liquid and gas phases when oxalic and formic acids were added suggests a two-step process for the formation of allyl alcohol under the operating conditions of the reaction; the initial step involves the dehydration of glycerol while the second comprises the reduction of the species produced in step one.