Enhanced direct production of sorbitol by cellulose ball-milling
The catalytic conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to renewable and valuable chemicals has attracted global interest. Given the abundance of this renewable raw material and its reduced impact on the food chain, it is an attractive source for replacing fossil fuels and obtaining chemicals or fuels in the context of a sustainable economy. In this work, a catalyst (Ru/AC) was developed to perform, in a single step, hydrolysis and hydrogenation of cellulose to sorbitol. An activated carbon supported ruthenium catalyst was examined for the one-pot hydrolytic hydrogenation of cellulose and it has shown to be very active and selective for the conversion of cellulose into sorbitol. When microcrystalline cellulose was used, a conversion of 36% was reached after 5 hours of reaction, with a selectivity to sorbitol of 40%. On the other hand, ball-milled cellulose allowed attaining conversions close to 90%, with a selectivity to sorbitol of 50%. Moreover, if the catalyst was ball-milled together with cellulose, the selectivity to sorbitol could be further increased to almost 80%. The catalyst showed excellent stability after repeated use. In this work we combined hydrolysis and hydrogenation in one-pot (using heterogeneous catalysts instead of homogeneous), in the presence of a Ru/AC catalyst (without any support pre-treatment with acids) and pre-treated cellulose just by ball-milling (instead of using acids). For this reason, the results obtained in this work are one of the best values achieved when using supported metal catalysts to convert cellulose by an environmentally friendly process.