Glycerol is the main co-product of the vegetable oils industry (especially biodiesel). With the rapid development of oleochemistry, the production of glycerol is rapidly increasing and chemists are trying to find new applications of glycerol to encourage a better industrial development of vegetable oils. In this Review, attention is focused on the selective use of glycerol as a safe organic building block for organic chemistry. An overview is given of the different heterogeneous catalytic routes developed by chemists for the successful and environmentally friendly use of glycerol in sustainable organic chemistry. In particular, the effects of different catalyst structural parameters are discussed to clearly highlight how catalysis can help organic chemists to overcome the drawbacks stemming from the use of glycerol as a safe organic building block. It is shown that heterogeneous catalysis offers efficient routes for bypassing the traditional use of highly toxic and expensive epichlorohydrin, 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol, or glycidol, which are usually used as a glyceryl donor in organic chemistry.
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