Application of deep eutectic solvents as catalysts for the esterification of oleic acid with glycerol

Scott T. Williamson, Kaveh Shahbaz, Farouq S. Mjalli, Inas M. AlNashef, Mohammed M. Farid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Free fatty acids (FFA) in low grade oil could be reduced by using an esterification reaction with glycerol, which itself is a waste product of biodiesel synthesis to give mono- and di-glycerides. This study investigated, for the first time, the reaction between oleic acid as a FFA with glycerol, using a phosphonium-based deep eutectic solvent (DES) as a catalyst. The effects of temperature (120 °C, 150 °C and 180 °C) and the DES catalyst concentration (1, 3 and 5 wt%) on the esterification efficiency of fatty acid conversion were observed. The glycerol to fatty acid molar ratio (6:1) and agitation speed (600 rpm) were kept constant. The results revealed that the lowest activation energy of 54.64 kJ/mol was attained using 5 wt% of DES catalyst. Accordingly, optimum reaction conditions were found at a temperature of 150 °C with a 5 wt% DES catalyst, which produced 95% FFA conversion after 30 min of reaction time. In addition, 85% of combined mono- and di-glycerides was observed at the optimum condition, which will be easier to transesterify using alcohol. The process was repeated without adding any fresh catalyst and results showed that catalyst activity sustained very well, suggesting that it can be reused a number of times.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)480-488
Number of pages9
JournalRenewable Energy
StatePublished - 2017


  • Biodiesel
  • Catalyst
  • Deep eutectic solvent
  • Esterification
  • Free fatty acids
  • Glycerol


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