In the present work, dialysis was used to recover vanillin while being produced by partial photocatalytic oxidation of ferulic acid in an aqueous solution at ambient temperature. The relatively high value of the permeate flux through a dense polyether-block amide membrane allowed continuously extracting vanillin from the reacting solution, thus avoiding its successive oxidation. The rate of vanillin formation was improved, compared to other reactor configurations, because intermediate compounds permeated from the reacting solution and did not hinder the reaction, while ferulic acid permeated in the opposite direction to partially replenish the reactor with the substrate. The photocatalytic membrane reactor obtained by the effective coupling of dialysis with the photocatalytic reaction improved the production yield. For instance, with the utilized experimental set up, the total amount of vanillin produced after 5 h in the membrane reactor was more than one-third higher than in the photocatalytic reactor without dialysis. The results obtained with a mathematical model agree with the experimentally observed behavior. The model allowed estimating vanillin diffusivity in the membrane and showed that concentration polarization might limit the process.
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