Innovative Reactive Distillation Process for the Sustainable Synthesis of Natural Benzaldehyde

Hong Li, Ying Meng, Chang Shu, Xingang Li, Anton A. Kiss, Xin Gao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


Benzaldehyde (BA) is an aromatic flavor compound with a distinctive bitter almond taste and odor, being the second most produced and valuable natural fruit flavor (after vanillin). Compared to the chemical synthesis route, the BA production from natural resources is very expensive hence significant research effort has spurred into finding more feasible solutions. This study presents a novel reactive distillation (RD) process for the synthesis of natural BA by the alkaline hydrolysis reaction of cinnamaldehyde using β-cyclodextrin as phase transfer catalyst. A rigorous model of the RD process was developed for the plant design and scale-up, and pilot-scale experiments were used to validate the model. Also, a sensitivity analysis was performed to determine the effects of key operating variables on the RD process performance. The techno-economic analysis shows that the process is feasible, with over 97% and 70% reduction in CapEx and OpEx, over 88% savings in total annual costs, and 70% less CO2 emissions as compared to the batch technology. Higher conversion and yield can be obtained by RD, within shorter residence time (only 2.9 h instead of 18 h) and using a lower reactants ratio (water:cinnamaldehyde = 11.5 instead of 200) as compared to the conventional process. However, the yield still needs to be further improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14114-14124
Number of pages11
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2018


  • Experimental validation
  • Phase-transfer catalyst
  • Process intensification
  • Scale-up


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