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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Syntheses of biodiesel precursors: Sulfonic acid catalysts for condensation of biomass-derived platform molecules

  • Author(s): Balakrishnan, M
  • Sacia, ER
  • Bell, AT
  • et al.

Synthesis of transportation fuel from lignocellulosic biomass is an attractive solution to the green alternative-energy problem. The production of biodiesel, in particular, involves the process of upgrading biomass-derived small molecules to diesel precursors containing a specific carbon range (C 11-C23). Herein, a carbon-upgrading process utilizing an acid-catalyzed condensation of furanic platform molecules from biomass is described. Various types of sulfonic acid catalysts have been evaluated for this process, including biphasic and solid supported catalysts. A silica-bound alkyl sulfonic acid catalyst has been developed for promoting carbon-carbon bond formation of biomass-derived carbonyl compounds with 2-methylfuran. This hydrophobic solid acid catalyst exhibits activity and selectivity that are comparable to those of a soluble acid catalyst. The catalyst can be readily recovered and recycled, possesses appreciable hydrolytic stability in the presence of water, and retains its acidity over multiple reaction cycles. Application of this catalyst to biomass-derived platform molecules led to the synthesis of a variety of furanic compounds, which are potential biodiesel precursors. Syntheses of biodiesel precursors: A silica-bound alkyl sulfonic acid catalyst has been developed for the process of upgrading biomass-derived furanic platform molecules to biodiesel precursors. The hydrophobic alkyl sulfonic acid functionality of this catalyst is responsible for the high activity in addition to the hydrolytic stability during the syntheses of biodiesel precursors. Various carbonyl compounds from biomass in combination with 2-methylfuran have been successfully upgraded to diesel-range compounds utilizing this catalyst. © 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.

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