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Keywords:

  • biodiesel;
  • reaction kinetics;
  • ultrasound;
  • transesterification;
  • acid catalyst

A novel single-step process with chlorosulfonic acid catalyst for ultrasonic biodiesel synthesis using feedstock with high free fatty acid content is investigated.Jatropha curcas oil has been used as the model feedstock with methanol as alcohol. The distinct merit of chlorosulfonic acid is that it catalyzes both esterification and transesterification reactions. Moreover, chlorosulfonic acid also counteracts inhibition caused by water formed during esterification, which is the cause for very slow kinetics of acid catalyzed transesterification. In addition, sonication of the reaction mixture also causes strong micromixing and emulsification that enhances the transesterification kinetics. Statistical optimization of the process shows 93% yield for 8.5 wt % catalyst, 20:1 alcohol to oil molar ratio and temperature of 333 K. Peculiar feature of this process is that high yield is seen at moderate temperature and molar ratio, which are much smaller than that for conventional sulfuric acid catalyzed processes. The activation energy for the process (57 kJ/mol) is at least 3× lower than the energy for sulfuric acid catalyzed transesterification. The thermodynamic analysis reveals that the net Gibbs energy change for the single-step process is almost same as that for sulfuric acid catalyzed process. © 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 60: 1572–1581, 2014