Evaluation of solvents for extraction of acetic acid from aqueous solutions

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Liquid extraction is a means of separating two or more components of a solution. The process involves mixing the solution with an immiscible solvent, separating the two phases, and recovery of the desired materials and of solvent from the solvent phase, usually by distillation. Separation is accomplished if certain of the solution components are more soluble in the extracting solvent employed than in the feed solution.

Liquid extraction is used to concentrate aqueous solutions of acetic acid produced in the esterification of cellulose and in other manufacturing processes because acetic acid and water are not easily separated by direct rectification.

Liquid extraction of acetic acid must always be followed by solvent-recovery systems. Then the selection of solvents suitable for extraction of acetic acid must be based not only on the relative affinity of the solvents for acetic acid but also on consideration of heat and other energy requirements of the extraction and solvent recovery systems.

The purpose of this investigation was to develop a method of evaluating solvent extraction systems for the recovery of acetic acid from aqueous liquors, by comparisons of selected solvent systems on the basis of: (a) theoretical transfer units required for extraction, (b) in the case of solvents boiling below 100 °C, theoretical plates required for distillation of extracts, and (c) heat required for recovery of pure acetic acid and of solvent.