Cellulosic biofuel: Ethyl levulinate is a promising biofuel that can be obtained from lignocellulosic residues. A byproducts, furfural, can be converted into ethyl levulinate in an acid-based process. Here, the use of solid acid catalysts for the conversion of furfuryl alcohol into ethyl levulinate is reported.
Furfural, a potential coproduct of levulinic acid, can be converted into levulinic acid via hydrogenation to furfuryl alcohol and subsequent ethanolysis to ethyl levulinate. The ethanolysis reaction is known to proceed in the presence of H2SO4. We show here that several strongly acidic resins are comparably effective catalysts for this reaction. Optimal performance is achieved by balancing the number of acid sites with their accessibility in the resin. Acidic zeolites such as H-ZSM-5 also catalyze this reaction, although with a lower activity and a higher coproduction of diethyl ether.