The properties and use of biodiesel as a renewable fuel as well as the
problems associated with its current production processes are outlined.
A novel sustainable esterification process based on catalytic reactive
distillation is proposed. The pros and cons of manufacturing biodiesel
via fatty acid esterification using metal oxide solid acid catalysts are
investigated. Finding catalysts that are active, selective, and stable
under the process conditions is the main challenge for a successful
design. The best candidates are metal oxides such as niobic acid,
sulfated zirconia, sulfated titania, and sulfated tin oxide. Rigorous
process simulations show that combining metal oxide catalysts with
reactive distillation technology is a feasible and advantageous solution
for biodiesel production.
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