-/Monika Klick
Institute of Agricultural Technology

Bundesallee 47
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 4102/ 4103
Fax: +49 531 596 4199



Ethanol to Butanol  (c) Thünen-Institut
Ethanol to Butanol (© Thünen-Institut)

Production of butanol from bioethanol by heterogeneous catalysis

Bioethanol is a potential platform chemical and can be catalytically converted to important chemicals, e.g. ethylene, 1-3-butadien, n-butanol. Our research focus on the production of n-butanol by the guerbet reaction.

Background and Objective

Ethanol, known as alcohol, is produced in the world largest and most important fermentation process from carbohydrates (sugar, starch). In the last 8 years the world Ethanol production increased from 24 to 85 million t/a because of its usage as fuel additive. Furthermore it is a potential future platform chemical and can be converted in the presence of heterogeneous catalysts to a variety of value added chemicals (ethylene, ethyl acetate, 1,3-butadiene). One of the most interesting chemicals is n-butanol which can be directly produced from ethanol by the Guerbet reaction. This reaction requires high temperatures (200-450°C) and can take place in the liquid or gas phase. n-Butanol is one of the most important commodities worldwide. The majority of the 3 million t/a is produced via the oxo process from propylene and n-butanol is used mainly directly or indirectly as a solvent. Dwindling fossil resources and the shortage of propylene because of excessive shale gas fracking in the USA have attracted interest in alternative processes for the production of n-butanol. In the ongoing project a new process for the n-butanol production should be developed based on the Guerbet reaction. The complexity of this reaction and the few publications available create a considerably great need for research to develop a new process.


The reaction systems used in this project are a batch and a gas phase reactor which is equipped with an online-GC to study the Guerbet reaction of ethanol to butanol in the liquid and gas phase. At first suitable reaction conditions for the reaction have to be determined (pressure, temperature). In the next step different catalytic systems should be screened with respect to ethanol conversion and butanol selectivity. Additionally the optimization of the catalyst preparation, mechanistical investigations and long-term stability with a set of chosen catalyst should be conducted. Furthermore to this work methods for the catalyst characterization should be developed to identify possible catalyst structure-effect relationships.


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners


2.2015 - 7.2018

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 22014614
Funding program: FNR
Project status: finished

Funding Body:

  • Südzucker AG (Mannheim, Deutschland)
Logo FNR