Honors Program

Honors in Chemistry

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Aleksey Vasiliev

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Ray Mohseni


Long-chain alkylbenzenes are industrially synthesized precursors to commercial surfactants such as laundry detergent. The currently used catalysts in the processes of their synthesis are corrosive and harmful to the environment. These problems can be avoided utilizing heterogeneous highly acidic catalysts. Solid catalysts do not corrode equipment and are relatively simple to remove from the post-reaction mixture. Phosphotungstic acid (PTA) supported on silica gel could be a possible catalyst due to its high acidity with an estimated pKa ≈ -13. The catalyst PTA-SiO2 was prepared via the sol-gel method to covalently embed it in a silica support. The catalyst was granulated with γ-alumina for use in a fixed bed flow reactor during the alkylation of benzene with long chain alkenes. The isomerization of 1-octene, 1-decene, and 1-octadecene as well as the conversion of 1-decene in the alkylation of benzene were studied under varying conditions. During these reactions, the catalyst demonstrated good catalytic activity at temperatures above 200 °C with an optimal temperature of 250 °C. Of all three alkenes, 1-octadecene showed the highest conversion into respective isomers. The alkylation of benzene with 1-decene experiments showed decreasing of flow rate and increasing the ratio of benzene to 1-decene lead to higher conversions of 1-decene. Characterization of the catalyst after the reaction showed little changes in porosity and particle size. No leaching of PTA was observed. However, carbon deposits were found on the catalyst that requires regeneration before next use in catalysis.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.