Probing the Kinetics and Mechanism of Acetalization of Ketones and Aldehydes with Various Diols and Heterogeneous Acid Catalysts

Summer 2017

Alan Liu : Chemical Engineering

Mentor: Alexis T. Bell

The use of fossil fuels to produce fuels is leading to an increase in changes of global climate due to the large amount of carbon dioxide released. Fossil reserves are also becoming scarcer, so alternative energy sources such as those from biomass derived alcohols are becoming more important. It is known that some biomass derived alcohols, such as glycerol, can react with aldehydes and ketones to form acetals and ketals that are possible useful fuel additives. My research project will focus on probing the kinetics and mechanisms of the liquid phase reaction of diols with ketones/aldehydes in the presence of various heterogeneous acid catalysts. I will first do a literature review of what is currently known about these reactions. Then, I will perform trails of different times of reaction and temperatures (between 80ºC and 120ºC) of reaction, as well as a variety of reactants and acid catalysts to see how these factors affect the rate (kinetics) of these reactions. I also aim to produce a concrete mechanism of reaction. 

I would like to thank the Rose Hills Foundation for giving me this wonderful opportunity to conduct full time research for a total of 10 weeks during this summer. I not only gained valuable laboratory and research skills (especially in chemistry laboratory techniques and skimming literature), but also gained valuable insight into the biotechnology industry, where STEM is going as a research and career field, and also got to learn a lot from other SURF fellows on their areas of expertise. It has affected my future plans tremendously in that now I want to pursue graduate school and become a research scientist as a career field. Having the opportunity to work on a research project to discover something new excites me and now I'm definitely sure it's the direction I want to go into.