The ambition of this research project is to explore new catalyst formulations and to acquire fundamental insights in the underpinning reaction and deactivation mechanisms for the production of dioxane-free Narrow Range Ethoxylates (NRE) from ethylene oxide (EO), or alternatively ethylene carbonate (EC), and fatty alcohols (FA; C12-C14 straight-chain primary alcohols obtained from coconut oil)
To realize this ambition, a wide range of solid bases (e.g. based on calcium oxide, and its related colloids), in combination with e.g. zeolites and hydrotalcites, double metal cyanides as well as various Lewis acid/Lewis base catalyst combinations, will be explored. By using a variety of analytical methods, including Raman spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), dynamic light scattering (DLS), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), structure-function-performance relationships for the different classes of catalysts will be developed. By doing so, we lay the foundation for the more sustainable production process of NRE without the formation of dioxanes, and under milder and eventually solvent-free conditions.