Hierarchical macroporous-mesoporous SBA-15 silicas have been synthesised via dual-templating routes employing liquid crystalline surfactants and polystyrene beads. These offer high surface areas and well-defined, interconnecting macro- and mesopore networks with respective narrow size distributions around 300 nm and 3-5 nm for polystyrene:tetraethoxysilane ratios ≥2:1. Subsequent functionalisation with propylsulfonic acid yields the first organized, macro-mesoporous solid acid catalyst. The enhanced mass transport properties of these new bi-modal solid acid architectures confer significant rate enhancements in the transesterification of bulky glyceryl trioctanoate, and esterification of long chain palmitic acid, over pure mesoporous analogues. This paves the way to the wider application of hierarchical catalysts in biofuel synthesis and biomass conversion.
Bibliographical noteWe thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for financial support (EP/F063423/1; EP/G007594/1) and the award of a Leadership Fellowship (A.F.L.).
Dhainaut, J., Dacquin, J-P., Lee, A. F., & Wilson, K. (2010). Hierarchical macroporous-mesoporous SBA-15 sulfonic acid catalysts for biodiesel synthesis. Green Chemistry, 12(2), 296-303. https://doi.org/10.1039/b919341c