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Conceptual Design of a Novel Process for the Production of Poly(oxymethylene) Dimethyl Ethers from Formaldehyde and Methanol

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journal contribution
posted on 14.09.2017, 00:00 by Niklas Schmitz, Eckhard Ströfer, Jakob Burger, Hans Hasse
Poly­(oxymethylene) dimethyl ethers (OME) are environmentally benign alternative fuels. This work presents the conceptual design of a novel OME process which employs aqueous solutions of formaldehyde and methanol as feedstock. In this process, OME of the desired chain lengths n = 3–5 and water are separated from the reactive mixture (formaldehyde + water + methanol + methylal + OME). Thermodynamic limits are identified by studying distillation boundaries and chemical equilibria. By that it is shown that OME of chain lengths n = 3–5 can be separated from the reactor outlet by distillation. The separation of water is carried out using either an adsorption or a membrane process. Adsorption isotherms of water on Zeolite 3A are determined experimentally. The OME process is simulated and optimized using a reduced process model accounting for the mass balances and the thermodynamic limits. Favorable operating points of the process are identified using multi-objective optimization.