Acetic Acid Manufacture by the Selective Photocatalytic Oxidation of Ethylene
Acetic acid is a large volume, global commodity chemical used as a basic building block in manufacturing polymers, anhydrides, and esters. Current acetic acid manufacturing technologies are based on carbon monoxide, which is produced by partial oxidation or steam reforming of hydrocarbons. This inherently inefficient technology wastes scarce hydrocarbon resources, consumes excessive energy, and generates substantial carbon dioxide. Although alternative acetic acid production technologies based on direct oxidation of refinery gases exist, they also suffer from poor oxidation selectivity, poor energy efficiency, and wasted hydrocarbon resources. This project will provide an improved selective oxidation technology to produce acetic acid by oxidation of refinery gases, thereby reducing the loss of hydrocarbon feedstocks to carbon dioxide and reducing manufacturing costs. The approach will be based on utilizing a novel selective photocatalytic oxidation technology for the selective oxidation of ethylene and ethane to acetic acid. Unlike traditional oxidation catalysts, the selective oxidation process will use UV light to produce acetic acid at ambient temperatures and pressure. Phase I will demonstrate the experimental performance of the system, and its energy usage and life cycle cost will be compared to existing technologies. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: Selective photocatalytic oxidation should find immediate application in the commercial production of acetic acid, improving U. S. competitiveness in global markets. In addition, selective photocatalytic oxidation potentially can be applied to a wide range of commercial oxidation reactions in addition to the production of acetic acid. Improved oxidation selectivity also would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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