The detailed kinetics and mechanism of ethyl ethanoate synthesis over a Cu/Cr2O3 catalyst

S. W. Colley, J. Tabatabaei, K. C. Waugh, M. A. Wood

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    Ethyl ethanoate is produced industrially in a process that came on-stream in March 2003 using liquid ethanol as the feed. The catalyst was Cu/Cr 2O3, and the reactor temperature was 473 K. The selectivity to ethyl ethanoate was 95%. Detailed kinetic and mechanistic studies of this process were conducted in a multipurpose microreactor system, using an on-line mass spectrometer controlled and interrogated by computer. Isothermal frontal gas adsorption chromatography experiments using ethanol as the adsorbate in the temperature range 300-473 K found that a H2 pulse was detected immediately after the ethanol contacts the catalyst. The fact that H2 evolved from the Cu/Cr2O3 catalyst at 300 K indicates that the dehydrogenative adsorption of ethanol to form an adsorbed ethoxy species [(CH3CH2O)(a)] occurred on the Cu component of the catalyst. A plot of the logarithm of the amount of H 2 evolved on adsorption against the reciprocal of the adsorption temperature gives an activation energy to adsorption of 31 kJ mol-1. Temperature-programmed studies on the adsorbed ethoxy species showed that some of these ethoxy species dehydrogenated at 425 K with a surface activation energy of 94 kJ mol-1 to form the adsorbed acetyl species (CH 3CO)(a). The adsorbed ethoxy and acetyl species combined on the surface to form adsorbed ethyl ethanoate. The ethyl ethanoate desorbed at a peak maximum temperature of 680 K. Ammonia temperature-programmed desorption experiments produced a desorption peak for NH3 at 680 K, revealing the existence of a strong Brönsted acid site on the surface of the Cr 2O3. Thus the ethyl ethanoate desorbing at 680 K was bonded to the Cu/Cr2O3. Temperature-programmed reaction (TPR) studies, in which ethanol was passed continuously over the Cu/Cr 2O3 catalyst while raising the temperature linearly with time and monitoring the products of reaction continuously on the mass spectrometer, gave an overall activation energy of 92 kJ mol-1 for ethyl ethanoate formation, the same as that for the dehydrogenation of the adsorbed ethoxy species to form an adsorbed acetyl, suggesting that this might be the rate-determining step for the reaction. TPR studies of ethanol over unsupported polycrystalline Cu gave identical results to those of the Cu/Cr 2O3 catalyst, confirming that Cu is the active component of the catalyst. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21-33
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Catalysis
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2005


    • Copper/chromia catalyst
    • Ethyl ethanoate
    • Kinetics and mechanism
    • Temperature programmed desorption/reaction


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