Researchers at Tohoku University have developed a one-pot process for the direct conversion of sugar and sugar polyols to n-alkanes. Their paper is featured on the cover of the journal ChemSusChem.
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High (≥95 % C) yields of n-hexane and n-pentane were obtained by hydrogenolysis of aqueous sorbitol and xylitol, respectively, at 413–443 K [140-170 °C] by using the Ir-ReOx/SiO2 catalyst combined with H-ZSM-5 as a cocatalyst and n-dodecane as a cosolvent. The direct production of n-hexane from glucose or cellobiose can be achieved by using the same system.
The catalyst can be reused simply by the removal of the n-dodecane phase, which contains the product alkane, and the addition of fresh n-dodecane and substrate.—Tamura et al.
The catalyst is used selectively to cut off OH groups of biomass-derived compounds—such as sugar polyols—through hydrogenolysis, similar to a knife cutting off the skin of a pineapple.
Chen, K., Tamura, M., Yuan, Z., Nakagawa, Y. and Tomishige, K. (2013), One-Pot Conversion of Sugar and Sugar Polyols to n-Alkanes without CC Dissociation over the Ir-ReOx/SiO2 Catalyst Combined with H-ZSM-5. ChemSusChem, 6: 613–621. doi: 10.1002/cssc.201200940