Two-step catalytic conversion of lignocellulose to alkanes†
Direct conversion of lignocellulose to alkanes is challenged by the complex and recalcitrant nature of the starting material. Generally, alkanes are obtained from one of the main lignocellulose constituents (cellulose, hemicellulose or lignin) after their separation, and platform chemicals derived therein. Here we describe a two-step methodology, which uses unprocessed lignocellulose directly, targeting a mixture of alkanes. The first step involves the near-complete conversion of lignocellulose to alcohols, using a copper doped porous metal oxide (Cu-PMO) catalyst in supercritical methanol. The second step comprises a novel solvent exchange procedure and the exhaustive hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of the complex mixture of aliphatic alcohols, obtained upon depolymerization, to C2–C10 alkanes by either HZSM-5 or Nafion at 180 °C in conjunction with Pd/C in dodecane. This describes an unprecedented two-step process from lignocellulose to hydrocarbons, with an overall carbon yield of 50%.