A review of the catalytic conversion of glycerol to lactic acid in the presence of aqueous base

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RSC ADVANCES, vol.12, no.29, pp.18864-18883, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 29
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1039/d2ra03085c
  • Journal Name: RSC ADVANCES
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus, Biotechnology Research Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts Core, Compendex, Metadex, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Page Numbers: pp.18864-18883


Lactic acid is a high-value-added chemical with large production, which is used in many industries including the production of pyruvic and acrylic acids. Lactic acid is largely obtained from the oxidation of glycerol, which is a prevalent by-product of biodiesel production. However, the oxidation of glycerol to lactic acid requires harsh reaction conditions such as high temperature and pressure as well as the use of a hefty strong base. In the presence of suitable catalysts, the production of lactic acid from glycerol can be achieved under mild conditions with 1 equivalent base per mole of glycerol. Herein, we review the reports of the catalytic conversion of glycerol to lactic acid in an aqueous alkaline medium considering the reaction conditions, catalytic activity for glycerol conversion and selectivity for lactic acid. We start first with the reports on the use of homogeneous catalysts that have high catalytic activity but miserable recovery. Next, we discuss the employment of colloidal metal(0) nanoparticles as catalysts in glycerol oxidation. The papers on the use of supported metal(0) nanoparticles are reviewed according to the type of support. We then review the polymetallic and metal/metal oxide nanocatalysts used for the conversion of glycerol to lactic acid in an alkaline medium. The catalysts tested for glycerol conversion to lactic acid without any additional bases are also discussed to emphasize the importance of a strong base for catalytic performance. The proposed mechanisms of glycerol oxidation to lactic acid in the presence or absence of catalysts as well as for the formation of side products are discussed. The available experimental kinetics data are shown to fit the mechanism with the formation of glyceraldehyde from glycerol alkoxide as the rate-determining step.