(356a) Conversion of Hemicellulose to Furfural and Levulinic Acid Using Biphasic Reactors with Alkylphenol Solvents

Wettstein, S. G. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gurbuz, E. I. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chia, M. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dumesic, J. A. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The conversion of biomass to produce fuels, power, and chemicals involves a balance between production of high-value chemicals with the production of lower-value, but higher-volume transportation fuels, leading to profitable operations to meet energy demand.  Furfural derived from ligno-cellulosic biomass has the potential to be utilized as a platform intermediate molecule in the production of renewable liquid fuels and chemicals. We have developed a process to convert the hemi-cellulose fraction of biomass into chemicals and fuel that does not require the use of precious metal catalysts and that allows the remaining cellulose fraction to be processed separately (e.g., for use as pulp or for conversion to biofuels). Thus, this approach offers new opportunities for the effective utilization of renewable ligno-cellulose resources.

In our approach, the hemi-cellulose fraction of biomass is first treated in a dilute aqueous solution of mineral acid to produce xylose, followed by dehydration of the xylose in a biphasic system containing a hydrophobic solvent to produce and concentrate the furfural. The solvent does not extract the mineral acid, which remains in the aqueous phase and can be used for additional hemi-cellulose deconstructions. The furfural can then be converted to other chemicals, such as furfuryl alcohol, or fuels. We also show the use of a biphasic reactor for the production of levulinic acid from furfuryl alcohol resulting in higher yields than monophasic systems.