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Extramural Research

Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Terephthalic Acid Synthesis in High-Temperature Water

EPA Grant Number: U916149
Title: Terephthalic Acid Synthesis in High-Temperature Water
Investigators: Dunn, Jennifer M.B.
Institution: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Chemical Engineering



The objective of this research project is to characterize the partial oxidation of alkyl aromatics in high-temperature water (HTW) and evaluate the potential of this environmentally benign medium to replace the acetic acid solvent typically used in industrial processes for these chemical transformations. An example of a relevant commercial process is the partial oxidation of p-xylene in acetic acid to produce terephthalic acid, the monomer that is a precursor for polyethylene terephthalate.


This research project focuses on how factors such as reaction temperature, catalyst identity, catalyst concentration, and reactant concentrations affect the yield of terephthalic acid, conversion of p-xylene, and product distribution in HTW and supercritical water (SCW). Reactions are conducted in a batch reactor; liquid and gaseous products are collected during the reaction. The liquid phase is analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography, and the gaseous phase is analyzed by gas chromatography. Furthermore, an economic and environmental assessment of an HTW-based terephthalic acid synthesis process is conducted. The HTW-based process is more environmentally benign than, and equally capital intensive as, the current acetic acid-based process. The partial oxidation of other alkyl aromatics as well as more extensive analysis of the partial oxidation of p-xylene will be studied through additional experimental work to complete this research.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, high-temperature water, HTW, supercritical water, SCW, alkyl aromatics, terephthalic acid synthesis, reaction temperature.

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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