Catalytic dehydration of lactic acid in the presence of water is a potentially green, synthetic approach for the production of acrylic acid, and development of a highly selective catalyst is a primary challenge, leading to a resurgence in catalyst exploration and discovery. However, because the complexity in the analytical assessment of the efficiency of catalysts stemming from the possible presence of dimers in lactic acid feedstocks has often been neglected in the literature, we demonstrate, without consideration of the dimer during catalyst evaluation, that they can have a substantial influence on the determination of conversion of lactic acid and selectivity to acrylic acid in aqueous solution. In one example of a modified zeolite catalyst, a true acrylic acid of selectivity of 64% was overestimated to be 80% if the dimers in the feed solution were neglected in the analytical analysis. A survey of the literature demonstrated very few researchers account for the possible presence of lactic acid dimers in the lactic acid solution; therefore, the reported catalyst performance should be carefully considered in light of the potentially significant impact of lactic acid dimers. We further demonstrate that the heat treatment of a lactic acid feed solution prior to the reaction can hydrolyze dimers back to monomers, avoiding analytical misinterpretation and providing an accurate measure of the catalytic performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering