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Issue 2, 2013
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Microwave-assisted conversion of carbohydrates to levulinic acid: an essential step in biomass conversion

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Abstract

Degradation of non-edible carbohydrates to levulinic acid (4-oxopentanoic acid) was studied by using dielectric heating with microwave energy. Levulinic acid and its reduced and dehydrated derivative, γ-valerolactone (GVL), can be used for the production of small-molecule, functionalized hydrocarbons, which might be potential platform molecules for the chemical industry. First, simple model compounds (fructose, glucose, saccharose and cellobiose) were hydrolyzed in order to find the optimum reaction conditions (e.g. reagent, reaction temperature, acid concentration, time) for the degradation and transformation of polysaccharides (cellulose, chitin, chitosan) by using controlled microwave irradiation. Cellulose, a non-edible biopolymer of plant origin, was successfully converted to levulinic acid under the optimized conditions (2 M H2SO4, 170 °C, 50 min) with a yield of 34.2% in a mono-mode Multisynth microwave reactor. The reactions proceeded with hydrochloric acid catalysis as well, and a slightly better yield was achieved, however, using HCl (a chlorine containing catalyst) raises serious environmental concerns. The hydrolysis of glucosamine-based glycans (D-glucosamine, N-Ac-D-glucosamine, LMw-chitosan, MMw-chitosan, chitin) was also studied and optimized with sulfuric acid as a catalyst in a mono-mode Multisynth microwave reactor. The highest yield of levulinic acid was obtained with 2 M H2SO4 at 190 °C for 30 min. N-Ac-D-glucosamine, D-glucosamine, LMw-chitosan and MMw-chitosan resulted in levulinic acid with yields between 20.6% and 32.7%, the larger molecular weight chitin was degraded to levulinic acid with a yield of 37.8%.

Graphical abstract: Microwave-assisted conversion of carbohydrates to levulinic acid: an essential step in biomass conversion

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Publication details

The article was received on 02 Aug 2012, accepted on 31 Oct 2012 and first published on 31 Oct 2012


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2GC36682G
Green Chem., 2013,15, 439-445

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    Microwave-assisted conversion of carbohydrates to levulinic acid: an essential step in biomass conversion

    Á. Szabolcs, M. Molnár, G. Dibó and L. T. Mika, Green Chem., 2013, 15, 439
    DOI: 10.1039/C2GC36682G

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