Converting levulinic acid to olefins and aromatics (i.e. hydrocarbon fuels) in a single process step without external hydrogen gas
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Craig Forney
Commercialization Manager, Chemistry and Materials Sciences
Web Published:
Iowa State University researchers have developed a new catalyst that effectively converts levulinic acid to butene in a single pot process at high conversion rates and with good selectivity towards butene. As butene is insoluble in the aqueous reaction and readily separates into a second phase, allowing unconverted levulinic acid to be readily recycled for re-processing, selectivity can be increased by changing reaction parameters towards lower conversion. The products obtained from this process contains mainly cyclic olefins and aromatics, which are ideal candidates for making gasoline, jet fuels, and polymers.

Development Stage:
Levulinic acid has been widely recognized as a promising biomass-derived chemical for biofuel and biochemical development, largely because it may be easily and cheaply obtained by the acid hydrolysis of cellulosic materials from agricultural residues and other waste streams. Numerous researchers have sought to react levulinic acid to produce hydrocarbons suitable for transportation fuels. Conventional reaction schemes involve multiple steps, first reducing the oxygen content before upgrading to the desired end products, ideally branched C8 to C12 hydrocarbons for gasoline and jet fuel applications.

ISU inventors have developed a catalyst which allows the direct conversion of levulinic acid to olefins and aromatics in aqueous solution in one step without an external hydrogen gas supply. This invention can greatly reduce the operating costs and improve the yield of hydrocarbon products. This process can be coupled with the production of levulinic acid from the hydrolysis of cellulosic feedstocks, such as crop wastes, municipal cellulosic wastes, and pulp waste sludge. This invention provides a cost-effective process to make renewable transportation hydrocarbon fuels from Iignocellulosic feedstocks with competitive costs compared with current petroleum-based fuels.

• One step process from levulinic acid to C8 – C12 hydrocarbons
• Minimizes the number of reactors involved, reducing the capital and operating costs for the process
• Good yield and selectivity to isobutene
• Easy separation

New catalyst with one single pot process to effectively convert biomass to fuels.
Patent Information:
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Country Serial No. Patent No. Issued Date
United States 15/387,924 9,878,967* 1/30/2018

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