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Experimental evaluation of simulated moving bed reactor for transesterification reaction synthesis of glycol ether ester

  • Shan Tie
  • Balamurali Sreedhar
  • Megan Donaldson
  • Timothy Frank
  • Alfred K. Schultz
  • Andreas S. Bommarius
  • Yoshiaki KawajiriEmail author


This work presents an experimental evaluation of multi-column simulated moving bed reactor (SMBR) technology for transesterification of glycol ether ester for the first time. An industrially relevant solvent, propylene glycol methyl ether acetate (DOWANOL™ PMA) was produced using a laboratory-scale SMBR unit packed with a base catalyst. The catalyst selected in this study, a Type-II anion exchange resin, was found to be resistant to deactivation through our experimental runs. To design the SMBR process, single-column experiments were first carried out to develop a mathematical model and estimate model parameters. Using this model, the optimal SMBR process was found by a multi-objective optimization technique to maximize the productivity while achieving high conversions. The optimal operating conditions found in this manner were implemented in the lab-scale SMB unit, which achieved conversions ranging from 47.3 to 57.7%. Furthermore, using the experimental data obtained from these experimental runs, the prediction of the model was improved via Tikhonov regularization, which was successfully validated in an additional run at an even higher conversion of 74.6%.


Simulated moving bed reactor Reactive chromatography Optimization Glycol ether ester Anion exchange resin 



Cross-sectional area of the chromatographic column


Ethyl acetate


Liquid phase concentration (mol/L)


Axial dispersion coefficient (m2/min)


Henry’s constant


Equilibrium constant


Forward reaction rate constant (L/mol min)


Mass transfer coefficient (min−1)


Adsorption equilibrium constant


Molecular weight


Column length (m)






Propylene glycol methyl ether acetate


Average solid phase concentration (mol/L)


Reaction rate (mol/L min)


Simulated moving bed reactor


Time (min)


Interstitial velocity in the column (m/min)


Lower bound on volumetric flow rate (mL/min)


Upper bound on volumetric flow rate (mL/min)




Axial coordinate

Greek letters


Epsilon constraint method


Total void fraction


Objective function for SMBR optimization






Stoichiometric coefficient


Tikhonov regularization weighting factor


Objective function for parameter estimation

Superscripts and subscripts








Recycle stream


Component (EA, PM, PMA, ethanol)


Column number (1, 2, 3, 4)


Experiment data point


Model parameters


Desorbent stream


Extract stream


Feed stream


Raffinate stream



We would like to acknowledge the financial support from the University Partnership Initiative at the Dow Chemical Company.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.The Dow Chemical CompanyMidlandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Materials Process EngineeringNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan

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