Students and Trainees at UniCRE

Sadaf Aftab

Student Profile

Name of student:

Sadaf Aftab

Summary Institutes/universities attend and attending:

I am in my final year of Mchem-Chemistry with Industrial Experience at the University of Bradford

Your current job/employment/research (max 100 words):

As part of my masters’ research project, I am based at VUANCH-Research Institute of Inorganic chemistry where I am testing the effect of calcination temperature of hydrotalcite (heterogeneous catalyst) in the aldol condensation of furfural with acetone. The hydrotalcite used was calcined at temperatures ranging from 50 to 800 °C.

Research carried out at VUAnCh (max 600 words):

The project I am involved with can be used to make a precursor for jet fuel. This reaction is environmental friendly as it uses second generation feedstock, i.e. furfural which is also a platform chemical for many petro-chemical reactions and the acetone used is also renewable as it can be made by the bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates. The organic aldol condensation proceeds with a reaction between the base (hydrotalcite) and acetone to form the enolate which then reacts with furfural to form an alcohol. After a series of minor reactions that occur, the resultant compound F2Ac formed can be deoxygenated and used as a precursor for jet fuels.  

The reaction was carried out by mixing acetone and furfural in a 5:1 molar ratio at 50 °C in a glass reactor. The calcined hydrotalcite was then added and the conversion of furfural to product was monitored at time intervals of 5, 10, 20, 40, 60, 90, 180 and 240 mins using GC-FID.

The reaction data obtained at different calcination temperatures was then compared and it was seen that the calcination temperature of 450 °C gave the optimum conversion. This meant that the hydrotalcite was in its most active form at this temperature. At temperatures higher than 600 °C, a drop in conversion was seen which could be due to the cationic layer of the hydrotalcite being denatured due to being exposed to high temperatures.

Further to this, I also looked at the In-situ rehydration of calcined hydrotalcites. The rehydration was carried out by addition of water (2 g) to the mixture of acetone and hydrotalcite and furfural was added after 30 mins and the reaction mixture was monitored for conversion according to the procedure described above. The results showed that almost 100 % conversion was obtained at 450 °C calcination and temperatures lower than 300 °C showed no conversion at all.

Possible cause for both the hydrotalcite working effectively without water and with water at 450 °C is still debatable however it can be said that the conversion seen at lower temperatures is due to the loss of water and at higher temperatures; the carbonate anions are lost. In order to prove this, we require TGA-GC analysis in the due course. XRD and FT-IR analysis already carried out on the catalyst show a change in the catalytical structure at lower and higher temperatures. TGA shows two weight loses; one that can possibly be the loss of water and the other the loss of carbonate anions in the form of acetic acid or perhaps as CO2. The rehydration activity cannot yet be explained fully at this stage as it is an ongoing research.

Valuable skills and experience gained from working with VUAnCh (max 200 words):

Moving from a place where English is the main spoken language to a small town; Litvinov where not many people speak or understand English was difficult at first. However as time is progressing, I am beginning to pick up a few words from the local language and I have learnt that there are many other ways to communicate apart from talking, i.e. if I draw where I need to go on a piece of paper, people would then draw the directions down from me. The Czech culture is very different to the British way of living that I am used to so this experience has been an eye opener for me as I can see that people are content with whatever they have here which is not the case back in England. The best part about being here is the fact that I have had a chance to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds. Being located at the centre of Europe means that travelling to other countries is easy which enhances my knowledge of different cultures. Further to this, along with the experience of being in an industrial laboratory setting, I have also been trained on instruments such as TPD, BET and GC which I previously have not worked with. Overall, being here has been a great learning experience and this would be very beneficial for me wherever I decide to go in future.