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Electrolytic Oxidation Of Alcohol

P. Askenasy and coadjutors have investigated the conditions necessary for obtaining the best yield of acetic acid when alcohol is oxidised electrolytically.1 No diaphragm was used in the experimental cell employed, the electrodes being placed only 3 mm. apart. A little sulphuric acid was added to the diluted alcohol. Using rectified spirit, the best yield (80.6 per cent.) was obtained with current density 21 amperes per sq. dcm., potential 4 volts, and temperature 35°. Some aldehyde and ethyl acetate was formed during the process of electrolysis: the ethyl acetate becomes hydrolysed as the alcohol is used up, and towards the end of the oxidation some of the acetic acid is decomposed with evolution of carbon dioxide. On neutralising the electrolysed liquid with soda and evaporating down, sodium acetate is obtained, contaminated with sodium sulphate only. For economical working, fermented beetroot juice was used instead of rectified alcohol, and the best results were pbtained when about 2 grams of chromium sulphate per litre of electrolyte were added as an oxygen-carrier. Under these conditions, at temperature 30-35°, with current density 12 amperes per sq. dcm. and potential 3 7 volts, a yield of about 93 per cent, was obtained. The authors consider that, given cheap power, and using the fermented beetroot juice as the source of alcohol, the electrolytic process might compete with existing methods of manufacturing acetic acid.


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