Selective heating of microwave-absorbing solid catalysts in a heterogeneous medium may affect a chemical reaction; such selectivity cannot be achieved by conventional oil-bath or steam heating methods. Moreover, microwave methods are often misunderstood with respect to equipment and temperature measurements, so that additional experimentation is necessary. In this regard, the present study intended to clarify the effect of microwave selective heating on acid hydrolytic processes using a sulfonated activated carbon catalyst (AC-SO3
H). The model reaction chosen was the acid hydrolysis of cellulose carried out in a Pyrex glass microwave reactor, with the process being monitored by examining the quantity of total sugar, reducing sugar, and glucose produced. Heat transfer from the catalyst to the aqueous solution through absorption of microwaves by the catalyst occurred as predicted from a simulation of heat transfer processes. The resulting experimental consequences are compared with those from the more uniform microwave conduction heating method by also performing the reaction in a SiC microwave reactor wherein microwaves are absorbed by SiC. Some inferences of the influence of microwave selective heating of carbon-based catalyst particles are reported. Under selective heating conditions (Pyrex glass reactor), the yield of glucose from the acid hydrolysis of cellulose was 56% upon microwave heating at 200 °C, nearly identical with the yield (55%) when the hydrolytic process was performed under mainly conventional heating conditions in the SiC reactor. Although the beneficial effect of catalyst selective heating was not reflected in the reaction efficiency, there were substantial changes in the state of adsorption of cellulose on the catalyst surface.
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