The utilization of bioethanol as the alcohol source for biodiesel production is more environmentally advantageous over methanol owing to its lower toxicity, lower flammability and its sustainable supply from renewable agricultural resources. However, as the presence of water in crude bioethanol is the critical factor limiting the biodiesel production process, the energy-intensive and costly purification of bioethanol is necessary for biodiesel application. Manganese glycerolate (MnGly) is reported the first time here as a robust heterogeneous catalyst that exhibited over 90% conversion by using aqueous ethanol containing 80 wt.% of water in the production of fatty acid ethyl ester (FAEE). The employment of 95 wt.% ethanol with respect to water could achieve 99.7% feedstock conversion in 6 hours under the optimal reaction conditions: reaction temperature (150 °C), feedstock-to-ethanol molar ratio (1:20) and catalyst loading (6 wt.%). Commercially available low grade crude bioethanol with the presence of impurities like sugars were applied which demonstrated remarkable catalytic activity in 24 hours. The high water tolerance of MnGly towards biodiesel production could eventually simplify the purification of bioethanol that consumes less energy and production cost.
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