On the Selection of Ionic Liquids for the Conversion of Cellulosic Biomass Feedstock

Innovations of Green Process Engineering for Sustainable Energy and Environment
AIChE Annual Meeting
October 29, 2012 - 3:45pm-4:00pm
The use of ionic liquids (ILs) as solvents represents a promising route for the conversion of cellulosic biomass feedstock. 1,3-dialkylimidazolium ILs in particular, have become a popular and thoroughly-studied reaction media for this. Reactions such as the dissolution and hydrolysis of cellulose, the dehydration of glucose, etc. have been demonstrated. While these ILs have proven to be quite capable of processing these large biomolecules, their widespread adoption has been limited due to their toxicity and inhibitive costs.

It is clear that there is a need for less expensive, and environmentally benign alternatives. The objective of this work is to develop a deeper understanding of the interaction between the solute (biomolecules) and the solvent, which is necessary to effectively choose these alternative solvents. A number of solvent properties like hydrogen bond formation, acidity, etc., will be studied for both imidazolium-based ILs and lower-cost alternatives. Using probe reactions like the isomerization and dehydration of sugars, property-performance relationships will be established. The effect of using different catalysts to affect the reaction environment and thence product yields will also be examined. This work will provide insights into rationally selecting ILs to perform targeted chemistries.

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