Abstract: Gibbsite samples of various particle sizes (0.2–80 µm) were heated at 250°C in a series of straight-chain primary alcohols under the autogenous vapor pressure of the alcohol (alcohothermal treatment of gibbsite). The treatment in ethanol yielded pure boehmite, the morphology of which was similar to that of the boehmite obtained by hydrothermal treatment of gibbsite. In middle-range alcohols, the boehmite yields were low (50% if 80 µm gibbsite was used), and the products were contaminated by a poorly crystallized phase, having a χ-alumina-like structure. The products preserved the morphology of the originating gibbsite, this feature being similar to the thermal dehydration of gibbsite. Complete conversion to boehmite was also attained in mineral oil (a hydrocarbon mixture, which was used as a limit of higher alcohol. The morphology of the boehmite formed in this medium was identical to that of the product prepared by thermal dehydration of gibbsite in a sealed bomb without a medium. If fine particle-size gibbsite was used, the yield of boehmite decreased and the yield of the poorly crystallized phase increased in all the media.
The reaction mechanisms may be discussed in terms of the reported mechanisms for the thermal and hydrothermal formations of boehmite from gibbsite. Thus, in lower alcohols boehmite formed by a dissolution-recrystallization mechanism, whereas in middle-range or higher alcohols it formed by intra-particle hydrothermal reaction mechanism proposed by de Boer and coworkers for the thermal dehydration of gibbsite. The difference in behavior in middle-range and higher alcohols can be explained in terms of the solubility of water in the medium: In the middle-range alcohols, water molecules formed by partial dehydration of gibbsite were removed from the gibbsite particles into the medium so that dehydration proceeded in a manner similiar to that of thermal dehydration, whereas in the higher alcohols, the low solubility of water in the medium allowed the water molecules to remain on the surface of the particles, thereby promoting the complete hydrothermal formation of boehmite.