THF co-solvent enhances hydrocarbon fuel precursor yields from lignocellulosic biomass†
A novel single phase co-solvent system using tetrahydrofuran (THF) promotes hydrolysis of maple wood to sugars, sugar dehydration, and lignin extraction simultaneously and achieves higher overall yields of the fuel precursors furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), and levulinic acid (LA) than previously reported from biomass. In a one-pot reaction, we obtained yields of 86% furfural, 21% HMF, and 40% LA in the liquid phase and over 90% extraction of lignin as a solid powder. The co-solvent reaction also produced a glucan-rich residue that is highly digestible by enzymes for biological conversion to ethanol or further thermochemical reaction to additional HMF and levulinic acid. These findings enable an integrated conversion platform in which THF is both a co-solvent and final co-product to enhance production of fuel precursors for catalytic upgrading to renewable liquid hydrocarbons fuels.