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Characterisation and performance of three promising heterogeneous catalysts in transesterification of palm oil

Wan N. R. W. Isahak, Manal Ismail, Jamaliah M. Jahim, Jumat Salimon, and Mohd A. Yarmo

Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Bangi Selangor, Malaysia



Abstract: In this work, the performance of three heterogeneous catalysts, namely potassium hydroxide/γ-alumina, bulk calcium oxide, and nano-calcium oxide, in comparison with the homogeneous potassium hydroxide was studied in the transesterification of palm oil to produce methyl esters and glycerol. The physical and chemical properties of the heterogeneous catalysts were thoroughly characterised and determined using a number of analytical methods to assess their catalytic activities prior to transesterification. The reaction products were analysed using liquid chromatography and their properties were quantified based on the American Society of Testing and Materials and United State Pharmacopoeia standard methods. At the 65°C reaction temperature, the oil-to-methanol mole ratio of 1: 15, 2.5 h of the reaction time, and catalyst (φ r = 1: 40), potassium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide/γ-alumina, nano-calcium oxide, and bulk calcium oxide gave methyl ester yields of 97 %, 96 %, 94 %, and 90 %, respectively. The impregnation of γ-alumina with potassium hydroxide displayed a catalytic performance comparable with the performance of potassium hydroxide where the former could be physically separated via filtration resulting in a relatively greater purity of products. Other advantages included the longer reusability of the catalyst and more active sites with lower by-product formation.

Keywords: fatty acid methyl ester – transesterification – heterogeneous catalysts – potassium hydroxide/alumina – nano-calcium oxide

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.2478/s11696-011-0125-z


Chemical Papers 66 (3) 178–187 (2012)

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