1of Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering, Monash University Sunway Campus, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, 46150 Bandar Sunway, Selangor, MALAYSIA
2School of Chemical Engineering, Engineering Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang, MALAYSIA
Four different alkaline earth metal oxides i.e. MgO, CaO, SrO and BaO were used as heterogeneous catalysts for biodiesel production from palm oil. Effects of critical process variables i.e. reaction time, methanol to oil ratio and temperature were investigated. The results were then fitted to a historical design to study the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), to characterize interactions between variables and to simulate the process. MgO did not show good catalytic activity while CaO produced undesired products at longer reaction time. BaO showed the best biodiesel result with a yield of up to 95 %, followed by SrO with a yield of 91 %. A methanol to oil ratio of 9:1 and 60 ºC were found to be the optimum conditions. The experimental data were satisfactorily predicted at 99 % confidence level under various conditions with R2 values higher than 0.92. Characterizations of the catalysts before and after the transesterification process were also performed using a surface analyzer, scanning electron microscopy, Hammett indicator and Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometeric (AAS) methods. The catalytic activity was in the order of BaO > SrO > CaO. However, due to lixiviation of BaO in the product, SrO was found to be the most potential catalyst.
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