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Syntheses of Biodiesel Precursors: Sulfonic Acid Catalysts for Condensation of Biomass-Derived Platform Molecules

Authors

  • Dr. Madhesan Balakrishnan,

    1. Energy Biosciences Institute, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)
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  • Eric R. Sacia,

    1. Energy Biosciences Institute, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)
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  • Prof. Alexis T. Bell

    Corresponding author
    1. Energy Biosciences Institute, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)
    • Energy Biosciences Institute, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)===

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Abstract

Synthesis of transportation fuel from lignocellulosic biomass is an attractive solution to the green alternative-energy problem. The production of biodiesel, in particular, involves the process of upgrading biomass-derived small molecules to diesel precursors containing a specific carbon range (C11–C23). Herein, a carbon-upgrading process utilizing an acid-catalyzed condensation of furanic platform molecules from biomass is described. Various types of sulfonic acid catalysts have been evaluated for this process, including biphasic and solid supported catalysts. A silica-bound alkyl sulfonic acid catalyst has been developed for promoting carbon–carbon bond formation of biomass-derived carbonyl compounds with 2-methylfuran. This hydrophobic solid acid catalyst exhibits activity and selectivity that are comparable to those of a soluble acid catalyst. The catalyst can be readily recovered and recycled, possesses appreciable hydrolytic stability in the presence of water, and retains its acidity over multiple reaction cycles. Application of this catalyst to biomass-derived platform molecules led to the synthesis of a variety of furanic compounds, which are potential biodiesel precursors.

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