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Greener and higher conversion of esterification via interfacial photothermal catalysis

Pengcheng Yao, Han Gong, Zhen-Yu Wu, Hanyu Fu, Bo Li, Bin Zhu (), Jiawei Ji, Xueyang Wang, Ning Xu, Changjin Tang, Huigang Zhang and Jia Zhu ()
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Pengcheng Yao: Nanjing University
Han Gong: Nanjing University
Zhen-Yu Wu: Rice University
Hanyu Fu: Nanjing University
Bo Li: Nanjing University
Bin Zhu: Nanjing University
Jiawei Ji: Nanjing University
Xueyang Wang: Nanjing University
Ning Xu: Nanjing University
Changjin Tang: Nanjing University
Huigang Zhang: Nanjing University
Jia Zhu: Nanjing University

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 4, 348-356

Abstract: Abstract Reversible chemical reactions such as industrial production of esters are governed by the equilibrium law. To improve the productivity of esterification, superfluous reactants and dehydrants are usually used to drive the reaction forward. However, these methods are not only energy intensive but also cause extra difficulty in the separation of final products. Here we propose a photothermal catalysis system based on a sulfonic acid-functionalized graphene oxide aerogel to increase the yield rate of esterification without excess reactants or dehydrants. As a result of local photothermal heating and different molecular bond affinities, the generated products are evaporated out of reactive sites, leading to a local excess of reactants and thereby thermodynamically driving the reaction in favour of ester generation. Specifically, an acetic acid conversion rate of 77% is achieved, which is significantly higher than the theoretical limit of 62.5%. Theoretical analysis reveals its substantial advantage in saving the energy for separating products when applied to the real industrial esterification reaction. Our strategy could find applications in various fields such as thermal catalysis, nitration, acylation and the synthesis of other chemicals.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00841-0

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