1 Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark2 Centre for Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark
The work presented here is focused on the development of a new reaction process. It applies Supported Ionic Liquid Phase (SILP) catalysis to a specific reaction. By reacting methanol and carbon monoxide over a rhodium catalyst, acetic acid can be formed. This reaction is important on a large scale industrially, with millions of tonnes of acetic acid being produced annually. Acetic acid is an important precursor for making adhesives, plastics and fabrics. By using the SILP concept we are able to carry out the reaction in a continuous system, allowing a steady production of acetic acid without having to stop and re-start the reaction. This sort of continuous flow reaction is a subject of great research effort in recent years as it is more sustainable (and in some cases financially viable) that the current method of carrying out chemical reactions in large size batch reactions The project started right at the beginning with the construction of a suitable test reactor, then followed by the synthesis and testing of all the catalysts reported. A variety of nitrogen based ionic liquids were initially tested, giving good results and stability in the system. Later a number of phosphonium based salts were tested (these were no longer classified as ionic liquids due to melting points above 100◦C). The phosphonium salts showed even better activity in the system compared to the ionic liquids. Overall the work has shown that this process for the manufacture of acetic acid is viable industrially. This is backed up by the construction and operation of a pilot plant by Wacker Chemie AG in Munich.