Aerobic oxidation of glycerol over metal oxide supported gold nanoparticles in methanol results in the formation of dimethyl mesoxalate in selectivities up to 89% at full conversion. The oxidative esterification takes place in methanol, acting both as solvent and reactant, and in the presence of base. Thus, it constitutes a direct transformation of the glycerol by-product phase from biodiesel production or from glycerol obtained e.g. by fermentation. Au/TiO2 and Au/Fe2O3 was found to have similar catalytic activity, whereas Au/C was inactive. 1,2-Propanediol was oxidized to methyl lactate with a selectivity of 72% at full conversion, while 1,3-propanediol yielded methyl 3-hydroxypropionate with 90% selectivity at 94% conversion. Methyl 3-hydroxy propionate can be easily converted into methyl acrylate, which is then a green polymer building block.
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