Oxidation of levulinic acid for the production of maleic anhydride: breathing new life into biochemicals†
Levulinic acid (LA) is a biomass-derived platform chemical that could play a central role in emerging industries as an intermediate that facilitates production of bio-based commodities. In this context, we present a novel, catalytic pathway for the synthesis of maleic anhydride (MA) via oxidative cleavage of the methyl carbon in LA over supported vanadates. The approach is demonstrated in a continuous flow, packed bed reactor, and we have observed that VOx supported on SiO2 achieves single-pass MA yields as high as 71%. Preliminary analysis suggests that LA might compete with butane as an industrial MA feedstock. Finally, bifunctional LA and monofunctional 2-pentanone display contrasting oxidative cleavage selectivities, indicating that methyl carbon cleavage during vapor phase oxidation over supported vanadates is unique to LA.