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Kinetics and Reaction Engineering of Levulinic Acid Production from Aqueous Glucose Solutions

Authors

  • Ronen Weingarten,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
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  • Dr. Joungmo Cho,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
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  • Dr. Rong Xing,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
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  • Prof. William Curtis Conner Jr,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
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  • Prof. George W. Huber

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
    • Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 686 North Pleasant St. 159 Goessmann Lab, Amherst, MA 01003 (USA), Fax: (+1) 413-545-1647
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Abstract

We have developed a kinetic model for aqueous-phase production of levulinic acid from glucose using a homogeneous acid catalyst. The proposed model shows a good fit with experimental data collected in this study in a batch reactor. The model was also fitted to steady-state data obtained in a plug flow reactor (PFR) and a continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR). The kinetic model consists of four key steps: (1) glucose dehydration to form 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF); (2) glucose reversion/degradation reactions to produce humins (highly polymerized insoluble carbonaceous species); (3) HMF rehydration to form levulinic acid and formic acid; and (4) HMF degradation to form humins. We use our model to predict the optimal reactor design and operating conditions for HMF and levulinic acid production in a continuous reactor system. Higher temperatures (180–200 °C) and shorter reaction times (less than 1 min) are essential to maximize the HMF content. In contrast, relatively low temperatures (140–160 °C) and longer residence times (above 100 min) are essential for maximum levulinic acid yield. We estimate that a maximum HMF carbon yield of 14 % can be obtained in a PFR at 200 °C and a reaction time of 10 s. Levulinic acid can be produced at 57 % carbon yield (68 % of the theoretical yield) in a PFR at 149 °C and a residence time of 500 min. A system of two consecutive PFR reactors shows a higher performance than a PFR and CSTR combination. However, compared to a single PFR, there is no distinct advantage to implement a system of two consecutive reactors.

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