Ionic Liquids as Alternative Solvents for Industrial Alkylation Chemistry

EPA Contract Number: 68D00273
Title: Ionic Liquids as Alternative Solvents for Industrial Alkylation Chemistry
Investigators: Carter, Michael T.
Small Business: Eltron Research & Development Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $224,997
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2000) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Phase II addresses development of an ambient temperature chloroaluminate ionic liquid process for greener production of alkylbenzenes from benzene and olefins. The program is directed toward waste minimization, environmental impact reduction, and catalyst disposal cost reduction associated with benzene alkylation processes. The ambient temperature ionic liquid is a long-life, reusable, zero-vapor pressure catalytic medium that is anticipated to reduce catalyst consumption and increase product value while reducing environmental impact through its longevity and immunity to inactivation. Typical benzene alkylation reactions can be carried out at room temperature, resulting in further process cost reductions.

The objective of Phase II will be to develop processes for homogeneous catalytic synthesis of ethylbenzene, cumene, and long chain linear alkylbenzenes (LABs). These three processes share common chemistry and operating features. Project goals will include optimization of product yield through rational manipulation of process conditions. Evaluation of long-term production of alkylbenzenes and scale-up to 1-10 kilogram reactors also are planned. An alterative LAB process that maximizes yield of I-isomers also will be pursued.

During Phase I, Eltron Research, Inc., demonstrated that the catalytic ambient temperature ionic liquid could be used to prepare ethylbenzene, cumene, and 2-dodecylbenzene under ambient conditions. Selectivities on the order of 35 percent for ethylbenzene, 44 percent for cumene, and 37 percent for 2-dodecylbenzene were obtained for single batch reactions. The products formed less dense layers over the melt, which were easily isolated. Single batches of ionic liquid were used to produce up to 15 batches of product without loss of melt or catalytic activity.

Eltron anticipates that Phase II work will result in the identification of preferred conditions and practices for processes related to ionic liquid-based production of ethylbenzene, cumene, and LABs. The Phase II program will demonstrate the utility of the ionic liquid route for a long-term, low-cost, greener production alternative for these extremely important chemicals. This alternative process will have worldwide implications for the implementation of greener processes due to the large volume of alkylbenzene production worldwide.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, pollution prevention, engineering, chemistry, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Sustainable Industry/Business, National Recommended Water Quality, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Chemistry, HAPS, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemistry and Materials Science, 33/50, Environmental Engineering, alkylation , alkylbenzenes, Cumene, Ethyl benzene, alternative solvents, alkylbenzene, benzene, alkylation, Ethylbenzene, ionic liquids, chloroaluminate, Benzene (including benzene from gasoline)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Ionic Liquids as Alternative Solvents for Industrial Alkylation Chemistry  | Final Report