Esters of levulinic acid, which is biomass derived, are used as oxygenated additives in fuels, flavoring and fragrance industry or as blending components in biodiesel. A series of sulphated metal oxide catalysts were prepared and their activities were tested in the synthesis of ethyl levulinate as the model compound, among which UDCaT-5 (mesoporous super acidic zirconia modified catalyst) was the most active and robust catalyst. The effects of various parameters were studied in a batch reactor to establish kinetics and mechanism of reaction under optimized conditions. The reaction follows Langmuir-Hinshelwood-Hougen-Watson mechanism involving weak adsorption of the reactants and products. The apparent energy of activation was found to be 9.00. kcal/mol for ethyl levulinate. Several other alkyl levulinates were produced from esterification of levulinic acid with different alcohols using UDCaT-5. The use of solid acid catalyst made the process environmentally benign. The catalyst was reused up to four runs including the fresh one. A green and effective route for conversion of biobased levulinic acid into valuable esters is established. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
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