In this work the etherification reaction of glycerol with isobutene (IB) and tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) has been studied with the aim of preparing mixtures with high content of poly-substituted ethers. The results obtained using solid acid catalysts have shown that the reaction with IB proceeds at a high rate but the formation of undesired di-isobutene (DIB) represents a serious problem when catalysts with high density of acid sites, such as Amberlyst, are used. When using TBA as a reactant, the main problem is the formation of water that, due to thermodynamic reasons, prevents the formation of poly-substituted ethers regardless of the catalyst used. Some preliminary experiments carried out with a water permselective tubular membrane have demonstrated that the yield of poly-substituted ethers significantly increases once water was selectively removed from the reaction medium by recirculation of the gas phase.
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