Interest in biodiesel research has escalated over the years due to dwindling fossil fuel reserves. The implementation of a carbon-based solid acid catalyst in biodiesel production eradicates the separation problems associated with homogeneous catalysis. However, its application in the glycerol-free interesterification process for biodiesel production is still rarely being studied in the literature. In this study, novel environmentally benign catalysts were prepared from oil palm empty fruit bunch (OPEFB) derived activated carbon (AC) which is sustainable and low cost via direct sulfonation using concentrated sulfuric acid. The effects of synthesizing variables such as carbonization and sulfonation temperatures with different holding times towards the fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) yield in interesterification reaction with oleic acid and methyl acetate were investigated in detail. It was found that the optimum carbonization temperature and duration together with sulfonation temperature and duration were 600 °C, 3 h, 100 °C and 6 h, respectively. The catalyst possessed an amorphous structure with a high total acid density of 9.0 mmol NaOH g−1 due to the well-developed porous framework structure of the carbon support. Under these optimum conditions, the OPEFB derived solid acid catalyst recorded an excellent catalytic activity of 50.5% methyl oleate yield at 100 °C after 8 h with 50:1 methyl acetate to oleic acid molar ratio and 10 wt% catalyst dosage. The heterogeneous acid catalyst derived from OPEFB had shown promising properties that made them highly suitable for cost-effective and environmental-friendly glycerol-free biodiesel production.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal