The production of glyceric acid (GLA) by the oxidation of glycerin is a promising environmentally friendly and efficient process that could replace conventional low efficiency biological fermentation. However, the simultaneous achievement of the efficient oxidation of glycerol to GLA and the separation of subsequent products remains a challenging task due to the easy decomposition and condensation of selective oxidation products at high temperature. Here we propose a new glycerin-GLA process (known as the VDG process) by providing insight into the essence of heat sensitivity. In the VDG process, glycerine is selectively oxidized to GLA and other thermally sensitive by-products by our recently developed PtRu / MCM-41 nanocatalysts under base-free conditions. The high-purity separation of products is realized at a temperature that is lower than their decomposition temperature by integrating the vacuum partition wall columns. This intensified process reduces energy consumption and production costs. Compared to the conventional glycerine-GLA process, this VDG process increased energy efficiency by up to 61.3% and reduced overall production costs by 47.9%. In addition, the assessment of the life cycle using several scales obviously shows that the performance of greenhouse gas emissions, non-renewable energy demand and wastewater generation in the VDG process is around 5.0 times, 1.6 times and 9.5 times lower than in the conventional process. The results of this study are of enormous importance for the design of an efficient conversion of biomass polyol into value-added products.

Graphic summary: Production of glyceric acid from glycerine by integrating vacuum partition wall columns: conceptual process design and techno-economic environmental analysis

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