Entrainer selection for the extractive distillation of acrylic acid and propionic acid

Hilbert Keestra, Thomas Brouwer, Boelo Schuur*, Jean-Paul Lange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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A combination of molecular modelling and experiments was conducted to study the separation of acrylic acid and propionic acid through extractive distillation with polar aprotic entrainers. It was found that acrylic acid and propionic acid can be efficiently separated through extractive distillation with a polar aprotic entrainer, resulting in the entrainment of acrylic acid and making propionic acid the most volatile compound. Vapour-liquid equilibrium experiments were conducted with 25 wt% acrylic acid, 25 wt% propionic, and 50% wt% entrainer. Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was found to induce the highest relative volatility of 1.56 at 25 mbar, which agrees well with the predicted value of 1.66 using the simulation software COSMO-RS. The difference in pKa (ΔpKa = 0.63) between acrylic acid and propionic acid is the main cause for the enhanced relative volatility. The corresponding difference in hydrogen bonding strength was calculated using COSMO-RS to result in ΔE = 1.8 kJ/mol at 25 °C between acrylic acid and propionic acid with the total mixture. When dodecane was selected as an entrainer, acrylic acid became the most volatile compound instead of propionic acid. This is explained by the fact that propionic acid has two extra hydrogen atoms available to have a Van der Waals interaction with the carbon atoms of dodecane. The difference in total Van der Waals interaction between the two carboxylic acids in the mixture with dodecane is 1.34 kJ/mol at 25 °C. This difference results in a relative volatility of 0.91, which is too small to be exploited in a distillation process, and it was concluded that for this mixture, DMSO was the best entrainer in the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-663
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Engineering Research and Design
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Acrylic acid
  • Carboxylic acid
  • Extractive distillation
  • Propionic acid
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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