Metal Oxide Catalyst for Methacrylic Acid Preparation via One-Step Oxidation of Isobutane

Dr. Manhua Mandy Lin, Principal Investigator 
DOE Grant No. DE-FG02-02ER83420

Methacrylic acid (MAA) and its ester derivatives are important building blocks for many large-volume polymers and resins.  By 1999, the U.S. annual production of the methyl ester derivative, methyl methacrylate (MMA), reached 1.7 billion pounds.  The current commercial route for making MAA and its ester derivatives is the acetone cyanohydrin (ACH) route, a multiple-step preparation that utilizes expensive starting materials, consumes lots of energy, and produces toxic and corrosive waste streams.  This project will develop a cost saving, energy saving, and environmentally friendly catalytic process to make MAA in one step from isobutane, a cheap and abundant natural gas component, with air as the oxidant.  Our Phase I research has proven the feasibility of producing MAA directly from isobutane in a one-step catalytic oxidation process using air as the oxidant. Several lead catalysts of various metal oxide compositions have been identified as having excellent potentials for further optimization.  The Phase II research is aiming at significantly improving the catalytic performance of the potential metal oxide catalysts. 

Commercial Applications and Other Benefits:  If the isobutane-to-MAA process is successfully developed and implemented to replace the current commercial ACH process, the cost saving on the feedstock could be as high as 80%.  A significant energy saving as well as waste reduction are also anticipated.