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Green Catalytic Hydrogenolysis of Glycerol to Propylene Glycol Over a Promising Silica Supported Copper Catalyst

Zhiwei Huang, Fang Cui, Jing Chen, Xinzhi Zhang, Zhongyi Ding, and Chungu Xia. State Key Laboratory for Oxo Synthesis and Selective Oxidation, Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics,Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, 730000, China

Glycerol is a main byproduct in the biodiesel production process, and the effective utilization of glycerol can contribute to the economy of the whole process. Catalytic hydrogenolysis of glycerol to propylene glycol was investigated over an environmentally friendly silica supported copper catalyst. This process provides a clean and economically competitive route for the production of commercially important 1,2-propanediol from renewable glycerol instead of from non-renewable petroleum. Propylene glycol was selectively produced (with a selectivity > 96%) in high yield (> 80%) under moderate conditions. Products with high purity were obtained easily without complicated separation processes. In addition, the catalyst showed excellent stability for glycerol reaction, no appreciable decrease in the activity was observed even after 1000 h of time-on-stream. The application of this copper based catalyst in glycerol hydrogenolysis is promising.