Researchers in China have developed a one-pot process for the direct conversion of cellulose to ethanol with a yield of 43.2 C% over a multifunctional catalyst Mo/Pt/WOx, which effectively catalyzes the tandem reactions of cellulose to ethylene glycol (EG) and then to ethanol. A paper on their work is published in the journal Joule.
The researchers suggest that the inherent advantages of a chemocatalytic process in continuous operation and scalability will make it a promising alternative to the current bioprocess for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
The increasing concerns over global climate change have motivated great interest in the utilization of renewable biomass for the production of fuels and chemicals. Among various platform and end-use products derived from biomass, cellulosic ethanol is the most important one. It is envisioned that up to 30% of the transportation fuels will be derived from biomass by the year of 2030 in order to limit CO2 emissions, and cellulosic ethanol will be a leading player as it can be directly used as a drop-in bio-fuel in gasoline.
The current production of cellulosic ethanol is predominantly through the bioconversion process. While great progress has been made in engineering microbes for biofuel production, the economically viable production of cellulosic ethanol remains a great challenge because of the recalcitrance of lignocellulose.
In contrast to the bio-production of cellulosic ethanol, the direct conversion of cellulose to ethanol by a chemical approach is yet to be developed, although a plethora of chemicals other than ethanol have already been synthesized directly from lignocellulose via various chemocatalytic routes. … Herein, we report the one-pot direct conversion of cellulose to ethanol over a multi-functional catalyst Mo/Pt/WOx (2 < x < 3).—Yang et al.
Under a reaction condition of 245 ˚C and and 6 MPa H2, cellulose was completely converted, and the ethanol yield reached 43.2 C%. In this three-component catalyst, the WOx catalyzed the C-C cleavage of cellulose to form glycolaldehyde, while the sequential introduction of Pt and Mo to the WOx enabled it not only to catalyze the hydrogenation of glycolaldehyde to EG but also to promote the C-O cleavage of EG to form ethanol.
Yang et al. (2019) “One-Pot Production of Cellulosic Ethanol via Tandem Catalysis over a Multifunctional Mo/Pt/WOx Catalyst,” Joule doi: 10.1016/j.joule.2019.05.020