Converting raw solid biomass into liquid or gas phase intermediates which can be readily upgraded to hydrocarbon fuels is the most challenging or energy intensive step during the biofuel production process due to the complex composition and structure of biomass. We are developing cost competitive catalytic biomass deconstruction strategies using aqueous phase partial oxidation (APPO) for releasing platform intermediates from solid biomass with a focus on the production of organic acid streams that can be readily upgraded and converted to commodity chemicals or infrastructure compatible liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The APPO process breaks down solid biomass into water soluble and stable intermediate organic acid molecules over heterogeneous catalysts under mild operation conditions. Oxidation catalysts have been developed and tested for short durations with promising results using cellulose and lignin as the model feeds. A broad range of biomass species including woody biomass and corn stover have been evaluated to be converted into the water soluble organic acids with the APPO process. The oxidation catalysts have been proven not to be feedstock specific allowing full utilization of the various biomass species. We are working on optimizing the catalytic system to realize high yield of the organic acids at minimal dilution for enhanced process efficiency and to control the composition of the APPO product stream.
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