One-step production of biodiesel through simultaneous esterification and transesterification from highly acidic unrefined feedstock over efficient and recyclable ZnO nanostar catalyst

Highlights

The ZnO nanostar can be applied in one-step biodiesel production from unrefined feedstock.

Higher degree of FFA containing feedstock could affect the rate of transesterification.

The ZnO nanostar was found to react with oleic acid to form ZnOl and finally became ZnGly.

The ZnO nanostar served not only as a catalyst, it was also a catalyst support.

Abstract

Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostar synthesized by simple and up-scalable microwave-assisted surfactant free hydrolysis method was applied as catalyst for biodiesel synthesis through one-step simultaneous esterification and transesterification from high free fatty acid (FFA) contaminated unrefined feedstock. It was found that ZnO nanostar catalyst was reacted with FFA to yield zinc oleate (ZnOl) as intermediate and finally became zinc glycerolate (ZnGly). With the re-deposition of ZnGly back to the ZnO nanostar catalyst at the end of the reaction, the catalyst can be easily recovered and stay active for five cycles. Furthermore, the rate of transesterification is highly promoted by the presence of FFA (6 wt.%) which makes it an efficient catalyst for low grade feedstock like waste cooking oil and crude plant oils.

Graphical abstract

Keywords

  • Biodiesel;
  • Free fatty acid;
  • Simultaneous esterification and transesterification;
  • Zinc oxide

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