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Regeneration of levulinic acid from loaded-organic phase: equilibrium, kinetic studies and process economics


Regeneration of carboxylic acids from the loaded-organic phase is an essential step to complete the reactive extraction process. A study on the regeneration of levulinic acid from loaded-organic phase (methyl isobutyl ketone + tri-n-octylamine + acid) was carried out using various techniques including NaOH, temperature swing, diluent swing, and tri-methylamine methods. Equilibrium data obtained show that among all the methods, the recovery of acid is the highest for the tri-methylamine method when the molar ratio of tri-methylamine to levulinic acid concentrations is greater than 1. Kinetic studies performed for the tri-methylamine method showed that there are no changes in the specific rate of extraction with changes in stirrer speed rate and phase volume ratio (V aq/V org), and the overall order of reaction is 1.5. Based on the effects of stirrer speed and phase volume ratio on the specific rate of extraction, the reaction was concluded to occur in the fast regime. Also, about 80% of acid was recovered by the evaporation of tri-methylamine phase at 104–140 °C. A detailed economic evaluation for the recovery of levulinic acid using reactive extraction for a feed rate of 2 m3 h−1 shows that the payback period for recovering capital investment is 0.49 years.

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\(C\) (m3):

Acid concentration

N (s−1):

Speed of agitation

h (m):

Height of the liquid in the reactor

r d (m):

Droplet radius

V d (m3):

Dispersed phase volume

S droplet (m2):

Droplet surface area

V droplet (m3):

Droplet volume

L (m):

Radius of reactor

\(R_{\text{A}}\) (kmol m−2 s−1):

Specific rate of extraction

n (–):

Number droplets formed during splitting

a (m−1):

Specific interfacial area

LAH (–):

Levulinic acid

K acid (–):

Acid dissociation constant

K TOA (–):

TOA dissociation constant

K TMA (–):

TMA dissociation constant

\(\% E\) (–):

Recovery efficiency

[TMA] (kmol m−3):

TMA concentration

ρ (kg m−3):

Density of liquid

Υ (N m−1):

Interfacial tension

Φ (–):

Dispersed phase volume ratio

Aq (–):


org (–):


in (–):


* (–):



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Correspondence to Rajarathinam Parthasarathy.

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Eda, S., Kota, B.J., Thella, P.K. et al. Regeneration of levulinic acid from loaded-organic phase: equilibrium, kinetic studies and process economics. Chem. Pap. 71, 1939–1951 (2017).

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  • Diluent
  • Evaporation
  • Regeneration
  • Temperature
  • Tri-methylamine