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Novel Process to Synthesize Butene

Researchers have developed a novel process to synthesize butene from methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). The yield of butene from this catalytic process is over 80%. The reaction uses a bi-functional catalyst allowing it to convert MEK to butene in one step. Specifically, when MEK is reacted in the presence of hydrogen over this catalyst at a temperature of around 200 degrees C, it produces a mixture of 1-butene and 2-butene (cis and trans).

Conventional routes to synthesize butene, such as the use of petrochemicals or alternate reactions, have their drawbacks. To the best of our knowledge, petrochemicals yield lesser quantities of butene, are prone to supply fluctuations and undergo volatile pricing, all of which may have an effect on large-scale production of butene. Other chemical pathways for butene production are believed to be more complex and time-consuming, as they can involve multiple catalytic steps.

The current invention achieves the synthesis of butene (i.e. a mixture of 1-butene and 2-butene) from MEK in a single step, with a yield of over 80%. In addition, this process is intended to utilize raw material input that has been sourced from a renewable route (i.e. biomass-derived MEK). Hence, this process would also allow for a single-step, high-yielding and renewable route to the production of butene.

Butene, especially 1-butene, has a wide variety of industrial uses, such as:
  • Production of “green” fuel (sulfur-free fuels)
  • Incorporation with ethylene into low-density polyethylene to increase its flexibility
  • Production of butadiene, an important commodity chemical for use in polymers such as synthetic rubber
  • It can be polymerized to produce polybutylene which is used extensively in the manufacture of water supply piping
  • 2-butene is important in increasing the octane number of gasoline
  • Production of other useful chemicals such as maleic anhydride from n-butane

Additional Details


Kansas State University

Intellectual Property Protection

Pending Patent

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