From microcrystalline cellulose to hard- and softwood-based feedstocks: their hydrogenolysis to polyols over a highly efficient ruthenium–tungsten catalyst†
The utilization of cellulose and its integration in a biorefinery concept is essential even in the near future due to the growing global shortage of crude oil. Here, we report the catalyzed one-pot hydrogenolysis of cellulosic materials to valuable bio-derived molecules, especially polyols (e.g. ethylene glycol). We demonstrate how a very promising bifunctional catalyst, Ru/W/AC, converted not only 100% of microcrystalline cellulose to polyols in repeated experiments with a maximum yield of 84% and an ethylene glycol productivity of 3.7 g (gcatalyst h)−1, but also pine-, birch-, and eucalyptus-derived materials. Moreover, we systematically investigated the problem of catalyst stability with time by studying the changes in both the catalyst structure and the liquid phase, which have often been overlooked when biomass is converted to fuels and chemicals. Control of the active sites for the conversion of cellulosic feedstocks coupled with reaction engineering and strategies to prevent catalyst deactivation, is a prerequisite to understanding how high yields of platform chemicals can be achieved.