A switchable route to valuable commodity chemicals from glycerol via electrocatalytic oxidation with an earth abundant metal oxidation catalyst†
Electrocatalytic upgrading of glycerol to value-added commodity is demonstrated using an ultralow loading of a cobalt-based oxidation catalyst at 16 μg cm−2. Reactions take place under ambient conditions in an aqueous environment, while generating H2 as a byproduct. Selectivity towards two major products, lactic acid and glyceric acid, can be controlled via simple variation of reaction conditions. The system is scalable and functions well even in the presence of methanol, an impurity commonly found in the industrial bio-diesel waste stream. Industrial glycerol waste from a local bio-diesel plant was also shown to be upgradable after a simple aqueous pretreatment.