Sustainable Reaction and Separation Systems

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Newton, Elizabeth Lynn
Eckert, Charles A.
Liotta, Charles L.
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With increasing environmental awareness and natural resource limitations, researchers must begin to incorporate sustainability into their process and product designs. One target for green engineering is in reaction and separation design. This is typically done in a wasteful and often toxic manner with organic solvents and lack of recycle. The following thesis discusses alternatives to these costly separations by means of ionic liquids, benign extraction, separation with carbon dioxide, and near critical water. Ionic liquids are combined with carbon dioxide to induce melting point depressions of up to 124 degrees Celsius. Using this system as a reaction medium will offer control over the reaction phases while utilizing green solvents. Benign extractions are performed on both ferulic acid and on proteins from biomass by replacing alkaline solvents and costly protein separation techniques with simple liquid-liquid extraction. This means simpler systems and less waste than from previous methods. This thesis also discusses an opportunity for more efficient separation and recycle of a pharmaceutical catalyst, Mn-Salen. Using carbon dioxide with the organic aqueous tunable solvent system, the reaction can be run homogeneously and the product and catalyst separated heterogeneously, thus creating an extremely efficient process. Lastly, near critical water is used as an extraction and reaction medium by extracting ferulic acid from Brewers Spent Grain and then catalyzing its transformation to 4-vinylguaiacol. In this manner a simple, benign process is used to turn waste into valuable chemicals. Although somewhat different, each of the studied processes strives to eliminate waste and toxicity of many commonly used reaction and separation techniques, thus creating safe and sustainable processes.
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