Researchers at the University of Wisconsin led by Dr. James Dumesic report on the use of a biphasic reaction system using γ-valerolactone (GVL) as a solvent for the deconstruction of cellulose to produce levulinic and formic acids, which can be later converted to biofuels. Their paper is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The biphasic system, operating at 428 K (155 7deg;C, 311 ° F) achieves high yields of levulinic and formic acids (e.g., 70%), and leads to complete solubilization of cellulose.
The GVL solvent extracts the majority of the levulinic acid (e.g., >75%), which can subsequently be converted to GVL over a carbon-supported Ru-Sn catalyst. This approach for cellulose conversion eliminates the need to separate the final product from the solvent, because the GVL product is the solvent. In addition, this approach eliminates the deposition of solid humin species in the cellulose deconstruction reactor, allowing these species to be collected and used for other processing options.—Wettstein et al.
Stephanie Wettstein, David Martin Alonso, Yuxuan Chong and James Dumesic (2012) Production of levulinic acid and gamma-valerolactone (GVL) from cellulose using GVL as a solvent in biphasic systems. Energy Environ. Sci. doi: 10.1039/C2EE22111J