Beerthuis, Rolf, Granollers, Marta, Brown, David .R., Salavagione, Horacio J., Rothenberg, Gadi and Shiju, N. Raveendran (2015) Catalytic acetoxylation of lactic acid to 2-acetoxypropionic acid, en route to acrylic acid. RSC Advances, 5 (6). pp. 4103-4108. ISSN 2046-2069

We present an alternative synthetic route to acrylic acid, starting from the platform chemical lactic acid and using heterogeneous catalysis. To improve selectivity, we designed an indirect dehydration reaction that proceeds via acetoxylation of lactic acid to 2-acetoxypropionic acid. This intermediate can then be pyrolized to acrylic acid. Acetic acid is used both as a reagent and a solvent in the first step, and may be recovered in the subsequent pyrolysis step. We tested a range of solid acid catalysts for the acetoxylation step (Y zeolites, sulfated zirconia, ion-exchange resins, sulfonated graphene, and various sulfonated silica gels and mixed oxides). Recycling studies were carried out for the most active catalysts. To enable quantitative analysis using gas chromatography we also developed a reliable silylation derivatization method, which is also reported. These results open opportunities for improving the biorenewable production of acrylic acid.

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