• cellulose;
  • levulinic acid;
  • hydrochloric acid;
  • kinetics;
  • model;
  • rate control


In this study, the kinetics of the acid catalyzed hydrolysis of microcrystalline cellulose (Avicel PH101) to levulinic (LA) and formic (FA) acids was investigated in a batch reactor over the following range of conditions: 160–200°C, hydrochloric acid concentrations of 0.309–0.927 M (11.3–33.8 g/l), cellulose concentrations of 49.8–149 mM (8.06–24.1 g/l), and residence times of 0–50 min. The maximum LA yield of around 60% of theoretical was achieved for an initial cellulose concentration of 99.6 mM, acid concentration 0.927 M, and 180–200°C. A mathematical model and its analytical solution were developed to predict conversion of cellulose to LA and FA through glucose and hydroxymethyl-2-furfural based on an irreversible pseudo-first order reaction. Rate analysis of each reaction indicated that the rate-controlling step shifted from LA formation initially to HMF formation later. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2012