Biodiesel production by esterification of ricinoleic acid over a series of synthesized sulfated zirconia catalysts

  • Elianaso Elimbinzi Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Mkwawa University College of Education, Iringa, Tanzania
  • Stephen Nyandoro Chemistry Department, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Keywords: Ricinoleic acid, Sulfated zirconia, Biodiesel production


A series of sulfated zirconia (SZ) were synthesized and evaluated for catalytic esterification of ricinoleic acid obtained from the castor oil with butanol at 110 °C. The effect of alcohols’ chain length was studied using butanol (C4), propanol (C3), ethanol (C2) and methanol (C1) at 65 °C, and reflux of corresponding alcohol boiling points. The synthesized catalysts were characterized using nitrogen porosimetry, X-ray powder diffraction, thermogravimetric analysis and Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy. Analysis of ricinoleic conversion was performed using gas chromatography. Sulfuric acid loading improved the surface area of zirconia at a lower dose. The surface areas of the catalysts increased as the concentrations of sulfuric acid solution were increased from 0.025 to 0.10 M, after which the decline was observed. SZ obtained at 0.05 M H2SO4 (0.05SZ) gave the optimal catalytic activity compared to the other series of SZ used. The ricinoleic acid conversion decreased with increase of alcohol alkyl chain from C1-C4 at 65 °C, but increased under the reflux temperature of the corresponding alcohols, with the maximum conversion being 47% at 118 °C for the reaction involving butanol. Overall, the synthesized SZ catalysts are deployable in biodiesel production from castor oil upon optimizing other conditions.

Keywords: Ricinoleic acid; Sulfated zirconia; Biodiesel production


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2507-7961
print ISSN: 0856-1761