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Shane McGrath ACF Abstract FY10

"Conversion of Cellulose to Value-Added Chemicals"

Conference Name: American Chemical Society (ACS) 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference: Innovation and Application

Cellulosic biomass conversion is based mainly on gasification or pyrolysis. Both thermo-chemical routes lead to syn-gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Metal-catalyzed heterogeneous processes, modeled on the oil industry, allow for the conversion of syn-gas into hydrocarbons, which can be used as fuel. For similar transformations, more elaborate (and therefore higher-cost) methods make use of super- and subcritical water and/or enzymes. 

Cellobiose, a two-glucose unit dimer, is used as a simplified model of cellulose in this study; it contains a single ether-like linkage per molecule and is soluble in water. A series of readily available metal catalysts (easy to separate and reuse in repeated catalytic cycles) and near critical water conditions were tested for their ability to convert cellobiose. Results have shown that cellobiose converts to sorbitol or mannitol and shorter chain polyols such as xylitol, erythreitol, threitol, and glycerol. Mechanistic aspects of this complex conversion are investigated and presented.