Substituting fossil-based with bio-based chemicals: The case of limonene as a greener pore expander for micellar templated silica

21 April 2023, Version 1


Porous materials are widely used in applications such as adsorption, catalysis and separation. The use of expander molecules is a versatile route to enlarge the mesopore size in micellar templated mesoporous silica materials. Typical expanders used for this purpose are fossil-based organic molecules such as trimethylbenzene (TMB). In the course of making such syntheses greener and more sustainable, it is highly desirable to substitute such fossil-based chemicals with renewable ones. Here, we show that bio-based limonene can be used as an alternative expander molecule for the synthesis of large-pore templated silica. On the basis of electron microscopy, nitrogen physisorption and small angle X-ray scattering we show that the substitution of TMB by limonene leads to very similar material characteristics, reaching mean mesopore diameters of 17-19 nm. A comparative life-cycle assessment demonstrates the reduced environmental impact of limonene production from citrus peel waste compared to TMB production, supporting the call for more applications of renewable chemicals, ideally from waste-streams, also for the production of porous materials.


mesoporous materials
pore expander
swelling agent
green chemistry
life cycle assessment
renewable feedstock

Supplementary materials

supplementary information
additional data on LCA, process simulation and analytics


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