Tunable Synthesis and Characterization of Oleo-Furan Sulfonate Surfactants from Renewable Furan and Fatty Acids

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Tunable Synthesis and Characterization of Oleo-Furan Sulfonate Surfactants from Renewable Furan and Fatty Acids

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An important advance in fluid surface control was the amphiphilic surfactant composed of coupled molecular structures (i.e., hydrophilic and hydrophobic) to reduce surface tension between two distinct fluid phases. Surfactants are widely used in household detergents, cleaners, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and personal care products. Anionic surfactants constitute 50% of the $30 billion global surfactant industry and are widely used in household detergents, and personal care products. Linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) are widely used due to their low cost and high detergency. Current LAS production methods rely on toxic catalysts and petrochemical-based constituents, such as benzene and long chain hydrocarbons. The reaction has low selectivity to the prescribed linear structure thereby rendering minimal control over the desired composition and properties. Additionally, implementation of simple surfactants such as LAS has been hindered by the broad range of applications in water containing alkaline earth metals (i.e., hard water), which disrupt surfactant function and require extensive use of undesirable and expensive chelating additives. Despite years of technology development, most large-volume surfactants are made from petrochemical sources, while efforts to make renewable surfactants are focused on making existing surfactant structures from renewable sources. In this work, we demonstrate a new surfactant based on the natural structure and chemistry of plant-based oils and sugars with superior function and suitability as a replacement to petrochemicals. Furans obtained from lignocellulosic biomass can be acylated with triglyceride-derived fatty acids and anhydrides in the presence of a heterogenous zeolite catalyst. The results obtained for the reaction of lauric anhydride with furan show that different pore sizes, structures and acidity of zeolites result in varying acylation activity. Preliminary kinetic studies of the indirect acylation using anhydrides provide insight into reaction orders and product inhibition resulting in lowering of catalytic activity. Following acylation, the molecule can be upgraded via several independent and sequential chemistries such as etherification, hydrogenation and aldol condensation and finally subjected to sulfonation to yield surfactant molecules termed as oleo-furan sulfonates (OFS) in high yield. Evaluation of surfactant performance of OFS revealed hundredfold better detergency and stability in hard water conditions in comparison with petroleum-derived counterparts. The synthesis of OFS molecules is, highly tunable and selective where the number of carbon atoms in the linear or branched chain can be easily varied without compromising on reaction yields to achieve desired surfactant properties.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2018. Major: Chemical Engineering. Advisor: Paul Dauenhauer. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 139 pages.

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Joseph, Kristeen Esther. (2018). Tunable Synthesis and Characterization of Oleo-Furan Sulfonate Surfactants from Renewable Furan and Fatty Acids. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/199066.

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