Catalytic Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Alkyl Lactates with Solid Lewis Acids





The use of organic feedstocks such as cellulose, the most abundant biomass on Earth, for the production of value-added chemicals may contribute to a more sustainable economy and ecosystem. Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have developed a method for producing organic compounds from an organic feedstock, such as cellulosic, lignocellulosic, and algal biomass using a solid, porous, inorganic catalyst that has a combination of Lewis and Brønsted acid sites.



Our researchers have developed a method for Ethyl lactate is a “green” solvent and has potential to replace petroleum-based halogenated organic solvents. EL is normally produced by the esterification reaction of ethanol and lactic acid, which can be generated from biomass raw materials through fermentation, which is often costly and produces large amounts of waste. Our method catalytically converts carbohydrates to lactic acid derivatives in a “one-pot” reaction system using the mesoporous Zr-SBA-15 catalysts, conferring strong Lewis acidity as well as weak Brønsted acidic sites. Our reaction takes place in a C1-C15 alcohol-water medium, such as ethanol or methanol. The Zr-SBA-15 catalyst is isomorphically substituted with a transition metal to convert cellulose. This catalyst was also shown to convert carbohydrates into methyl lactate. The addition of an alkali metal halide salt can improve lactate yield in the conversion of raw cellulose to alkyl lactates. The reaction was optimized to be most efficient at the supercritical temperature carried out between 30 seconds to 24 hours and 180 C and 400 C.



  • Our method can convert abundant feedstocks, such as cellulose into organic materials with added value
  • Our method can produce more environmentally friendly products that may replace harmful chemicals


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For Information, Contact:
Shannon Sheehan
Manager, Technology Commercialization
University of Nevada, Reno
Hongfei Lin
Lisha Yang
Xiaokun Yang