Journal of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, 2014, 2, 4-8
Published Online June 2014 in SciRes.
How to cite this paper: Ouyang, S.Y., et al. (2014) Preparation of a Carbon-Based Solid Acid with High Acid Density via a
Novel Method. Journal of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, 2, 4-8.
Preparation of a Carbon-Based Solid Acid
with High Acid Density via a Novel Method
Siyu Ouyang, Xiangming Kuang, Qiong Xu, Dulin Yin
National & Local Joint Engineering Laboratory for New Petro-chemical Materials and Fine Utilization of
Resources, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Hunan Normal University, Changsha, China
Received February 2014
A carbon-based solid acid with high acid density was successfully prepared using camphor tree
branches as raw materials through a novel method including dilute sulfuric acid activation, car-
bonization in refluxing solvent and sulfonation. Physical characterization was detected to show
that the carbon-based acid is amorphous with polycyclic aromatic carbon sheets attached plentiful
-OH, -COOH, and -SO3H groups. The sulfonic acid density and total acid density of it reached 2.05
mmol·g1 and 5.63 mmol·g1, respect ively by acid-base titration. As a solid acid catalyst, it showed
excellent performance in the ketalization of cyclohexanone with glycol.
Solid Acid Catalys ts, Preparation, Biomass, Ketalization
1. Introduction
With the development of green chemistry, solid acid catalysts have received much attention for green catalytic
procedures with advantages of no pollution, easy separation and reusability. However, compare with the cata-
lytic activities of traditional protonic acids such as H2SO4 etc., that of the solid acid catalysts were always not
good enough mostly because of the lower acid density and strength. For decades researchers in this field around
the world have been committe d to improve the acid density and strength as well as the stability of solid acids. In
recent years a sulfonated (SO3H-bearing) carbon-based solid acid has been reported to be an efficient solid acid
catalyst for many acid-catalyzed reactions [1-3]. This kind of solid acid was usually prepared via carbonization
and sulfonation reaction using renewable biomass resources as carbon sources [4,5]. Their good catalytic activi-
ty also showed in catalyzing some special significant reactions like biodiesel production [6-9] and hydrolysis of
cellulose [10-12]. It must be one of the most important alterative for H2SO4 in future chemical industry. Though
it is, there is still a long way to make it be an efficient and stable solid catalyst for industry application.
In this paper, we report a novel method to synthesize a carbon-based solid acid catalyst with high density of
sulfonic acid groups via solvent refluxing carbonization using camphor tree branches as raw materials. As aceta-
lization reaction is a very important reaction in organic synthesis to protect the carbonyl group [13,14] and syn-
thesis of steroids, pharmaceuticals, and fragrances [15,16], catalytic performances of the obtained catalyst was
S. Y. Ouyang et al.
detected in catalyzing the ketalization of cyclohexanone with glycol.
2. Experimental
2.1. Reagents and Materials
The fallen branches from camphor trees were picked up as raw materials for the catalyst preparation. They were
washed, dried and cut to be granules. Oleum (50 wt%SO3) was purchased from Zhenxing Chemical Regent Ltd.
Co. (Shanghai, China, AR). Other reagents (AR) were from local supplier s.
2.2. Preparation Process
The catalyst was prepared as follo ws: 4 g camphor tree branch was immersed with 8 g 10% sulfuric acid in a
100 ml flask for 24 h. Then 5 ml toluene was added and the mixture was refluxing for 20 h at appointed temper-
ature to give a black carbonaceous solid. The solid was filtered and washed in boiling water for 3 h to get rid of
residual sulfuric acid and toluene. The obtained camphor tree branch char denoted as CC. The CC (2 g) was
immersed in 16 g oleum (50 wt%SO3) at 80˚C for 3 h. After sulfonation, the suspension was cool to room tem-
perature and filtered to yield a black precipitate. Finally, the resulting black solid was washed repeatedly with
hot distilled water (>80˚C) until impurities such as sulfate ions were no longer detected in the wash water, and
then dried completely to obtain sulfonated camphor tree branch char, which denoted as CC-SO3H in this paper.
2.3. Catalyst Characterization
Samples before and after sulfonation were characterized to know the structures of CC and CC-SO3H and
changes happened during the sulfonation process. BET surface area and pore structure were determined by N2
adsorption and desorption at 77 K using a TriStar 3000 after the samples were degassed in vacuum at 130˚C
overnight. X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) analysis was conducted on DANDONG Y-2000 X-ray Diffracto-
meter u sing Cu Ka radiation with a voltage of 40 kV. Fourier transform infrared spectrums (FT-IR) of the sam-
ples were recorded in the range 400 - 4000 cm1 on a Nicolet Avatar 370 FT-IR spectrometer using KBr pellets.
Total acid density and sulfonic acid density of CC-SO3H were tested by acid-base titration following the refer-
ence [11].
2.4. Catalytic Reaction
The typical procedure: A cyclohexone (0.05 mol), 8 mL cyclohexane, ethylen e glycol (0.08 mol) and CC-SO3H
(dosage seen Table 2.) were mixed together in a three necked round bottom flask equipped with a magnetic
stirrer and a thermometer, and a Dean-Stark apparatus which was constituted with manifold and condenser was
used to remove the water continuously from the reaction mixture. The products were analyzed by a gas chroma-
tograph (Agilent 6890N, FID detector) to show cyclohexanone conversion and ketal selectivity.
In order to investigate the reusability of CC-SO3H, the used catalyst was collected, washed with ethanol, and
dried for the next reaction. In the recycling reaction, catalyst dosage was 0.02 g, and the other conditions were
not changed.
3. Results and Discussions
3.1. Catalyst Characterization
Textures of CC and CC-SO3H were characterized by Nitrogen adsorption and desorption. BET surface area, to-
tal pore volume and BJH average pore size of CC and CC-SO3H were given in Table 1. Though surface areas of
both samples were not large, it was lager after a sulfonation procedure.
Figure 1 showed XRD patterns of CC and CC-SO3H. Typical crystal diffraction peaks were not seen, and the
width and weak diffraction peak at 10˚ - 30˚ in both patterns implied the structures of both samples were
amorphous. The process of carbonization of biomass is sophisticated, especially in the presence of sulfuric acid,
and many reactions would occur. The cellulose and hemicellulose chains of camphor tree branches may dehy-
drate. Lignin may polymerize or rearrange. Crystal structure decomposed and amorphous hydrocarbon structure
was detected. The diffraction peak at 16, 22, and 25 in the pattern of CC assigned to characteristic diffraction
S. Y. Ouyang et al.
peaks of crystalline cellulose were still visible, which implied an incomplete carbonization.
FT-IR analysis helps to identify the carbon skeleton structure and groups attached on it. Figure 2 showed the
IR spectrum of the samples. Infrared spectra of samples in 1605 cm1 - 1460 cm1 were a group of C=C bond
stretching vibration peak, which may attribute to the polycyclic aromatic framework structure. And a band at
2930 cm-1 is attributable to saturated C-H stretching vibration, showed that the carbonization incomplete. This
band disappeared after sulfonation indicated cellulose chain continue to convert into polycyclic aromatic hydro-
carbon structure during sulfonation. These results were accord with the results from XRD analysis. The band
1700 cm1 were C=O stretching vibration peak. And 3500 - 2500 cm1 belonged to O-H stretching vibration
peak. These peaks were seen in spectra showed that there were plentiful of oxygen-containing groups such as
phenolic hydroxyl, ester, ether, carbonylic or carboxylic groups in polycyclic aromatic skeleton. In spectrum of
Table 1. Textural properties of CC and CC-SO3H.
Samples SBET (m2·g1) BJH average pore size(nm) Pore volumn (cm3·g1)
CC 3.0 25.4 0.018
CC-SO3H 5.3 24.1 0.018
10 15 20 25 30 35 40
2θ (
Figure 1. XRD of (a) CC; (b) CC-SO3H.
4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000500
Transimis sion( %)
1605 1460
Figure 2. FT-IR patterns of (a) CC; (b) CC-SO3H.
S. Y. Ouyang et al.
CC-SO3H, peaks appeared at 1180 cm1 and 1035 cm1 assigned to S=O double bond stretching vibration, and
the characteristic band about 640 cm1 was the C-S stretching vibration peak. According to the acid-base titra-
tion results, sulfonic acid density of CC-SO3H was 2.05 mmol·g1 and the total acid density5.63 mmol·g1.
3.2. Catalytic Activity
Acetalization is widely applied acid-catalyzed reactions, which are important reaction for protecting the car-
bonyl group [13,14] and synthesis of intermediates for steroids, pharmaceuticals, fragrance industries [15,16].
Catalytic activity of CC-SO3H has been evaluated by ketalization of cyclohexanone with ethylene glycol.
Table 2 showed good catalytic activity of CC-SO3H in ketalization of cyclohexanone with ethylene glycol.
Few of the catalyst added could dramatically improve cyclohexanone conversation. When the amount of catalyst
was 0.05 g, namely account for 0.1% of cyclohexanone feeding, cyclohexanone conversation reached 92.8%.
Furthermore there were no by-products detected in GC analysis.
As reusability of the solid acid was so important, recycling reactions were designed. When the first run was
over, the used 0.02 g catalyst was collected and washed with ethanol for several times. The regenerated catalyst
was dried to catalyze the next run. It can reuse at least 6 times with tiny decrease of catalytic activity as shown
in Figure 3. That means CC-SO3H can be a good reusable catalyst.
4. Conclusion
The high acid density carbon-based solid acid has been synthesized through dilute sulfuric acid activation, sol-
vent refluxing carbonization and sulfon ation with camphor tree branch as raw material. And it showed excellent
activity and good reusability in catalyzing ketalization of cyclohexanone with ethylene glycol. The catalyst
owned advantages of high acidity, high acid density, and high chemical stability, which made it hold great po-
tential for replacement of the homogeneous acid catalysts in the green process. The mild synthesis condition not
only reduced cost of the carbon-based solid acid, but also made the industrial production possible.
Table 2. Influences of catalyst dosage on cyclohexanone conversationa.
Catalyst dosage (g) Conversation (%)
0 12.0
0.02 79.0
0.05 92.8
0.10 93.4
aReaction conditions: n (cyclohexanone):n (ethylene glycol ) is = 1:1.6, cyclohexane 0.05 mol, cyclohexanone 8 ml, 110˚C, 2 h.
Conversion (%)
Figure 3. Recycling performance of the CC-SO3H.
S. Y. Ouyang et al.
Authors thank for support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21003043) for this work.
[1] Okamura, M., Takagaki, A. and Toda, M. (2006) Acid-Catalyzed Reactions on Flexible Polycylic Aromatic Carbon in
Amorphous Carbon. Chemisty Mat eri al, 18, 3039-3045.
[2] Dora, S., Bhaskar, T. and Singh, R. (2012) Effective Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose into High Yields of Methyl
Glucosides over Sulfonated Carbon Based Catalyst. Bioresource Technology, 120, 318-321.
[3] Xu, Q., Wang, Y.J. and Yin, D.L. (2009) One-Pot Three-component Mannich Reaction Catalyzed by Sucrose Char
Sulfonic Acid. Frontiers of Chemical Engineering in China, 3, 201-205.
[4] Hara, M., Yoshida, T. and Takagaki, A. (2004) A Carbon Material as a Strong Protonic Acid. Angewandte Chemie In-
ternational Edition, 43, 2955-2958.
[5] Chen, G. and Fan g, B.S. (2011) Preparation of Solid Acid Catalyst from Glucose–starch Mixture for Biodiesel Produc-
tion. Bioresource Technology, 102, 2635-2640.
[6] Yu, J.T., Dehkhoda, A.M. and Ellis, N. (2011) Development of Biochar-based Catalyst for Transesterification of Ca-
nola Oil. Energy Fuels, 25, 337-344.
[7] Song, X.L., Fu, X.B. and Zhang, Ch.W. (2012) Preparation of a Novel Carbon Based Solid Acid Catalyst for Biodiesel
Production via a Sustainable Route. Catalysis Letter, 142, 869-874.
[8] Chang, B., Tian, Y. and Shi, W. (2013) SO3H-functionalized Mesoporous Carbon/silica Composite with a Spherical
Morphology and Its Excellent Cata lyti c Performance for Biodiesel Production. Journal of Porous Materials, 20, 1423-
[9] Chang, B.B., Fu, J. and Tian, Y.L. (2013) Multifunctionalized Ordered Mesoporous Carbon as an Efficient and Stable
Solid Acid Catalyst for Biodiesel Preparation. Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 117, 6252-6258.
[10] Suganuma, S., Nakajima, K. and Kitano, M. (2008) Hydrolysis of Cellulose by Amorphous Carbon Bearing SO3H,
COOH, and OH Groups. Journal of the American Chemistry Society, 130, 12787-12793.
[11] Wu, Y.Y., Fu, Z.H. and Yin, D.L. (2010) Microwave-Assisted Hydrolysis of Crystalline Cellulose Catalyzed by Bio-
mass Char Sulfonic Acids. Green Chemistry, 12, 696-700.
[12] Zhang, Ch., Fu, Z.H. and Liu, Y.Ch. (2012) Ionic Lique d-Functionalized Biochar Sulfonic Acid as a Biomimetic Cata-
lyst for Hydrolysis of Cellulose and Bamboo under Microwave Irradiation. Green Chemistry, 14, 1928-1934.
[13] Smith, M.B. (2002) Organic Synthesis. 2nd Ed., McGra-Hill, New York.
[14] Wu, H.H., Yang, F. and Cui, P. (2004) An Efficient Procedure for Protection of Carbonyls in Bronstedacidic Ionic
Liquid [Hmim]BF4. Tetrahedron Letter, 45, 4963-4965.
[15] Li, D.M., Sh i, F. and Peng, J. (2004) Application of Functinal Ionic Liquids Possessing Two Adjacent Acid Sites for
Acetalization of Aldehydes . Journal of Organic Chemistry, 69, 3582-3585.
[16] Liang, X. and Qi, C. (2011) Synthesis of a Novel Ionic Liquid with Both Lewis and Brønsted Acid Sites and Its Cata-
lytic Activities. Catalysis Communications, 12, 808-812.