Conversion of Biomass to Value-Added Chemicals
We are a nation dependant on non-renewable fossil fuels to satisfy our immense energy needs. Developing pathways towards fuels from renewable feedstocks is important to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and the ultimate conversion of our nation into one that runs entirely off of renewable energy. Recently, much work has been done one cellulose and starch to produce renewable fuels. Starch, a water soluble biopolymer made up of 1,4-α-glycosidic bonds, is the main component of foods sources, like potatoes, rice, and most famously corn (the main feedstock for the controversial E-85 fuel). This is the lead in to a massive and on-going debate regarding food vs. fuel. Cellulose on the other hand is another biopolymer that is not only renewable, but abundant. Unlike starch it is made up of the hardy 1,4-β-glycosidic bonds that are unable to be processed by humans, circumventing the food vs. fuel debate. Herein we explore the conversion of cellulose to various sugar alcohols in “green” reaction conditions, using low energy, metal catalysts, and mild conditions. Our work uses a model system of cellulose called cellobiose which is two units of glucose bonded in a 1,4-β-glycosidic fashion in a 50 mL Parr autoclave reactor with a Ru metal catalyst in water. Our results demonstrates that there are accessible pathways from cellulose to two very important sugar alcohols, sorbitol and mannitol, both of which have potential to be industrially important starting materials towards renewable biofuels or other viable chemical compounds.
Faculty Mentors: Dalia Kovacs and Jim Krikke, Chemistry
Shane presented at the 239th ACS National Meeting March 20-25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA.
Shane presented at the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference June 21-24, 2010 in Washington DC.
Page last modified January 21, 2011