Concurrent transformation of wood into commodity chemicals The project is aimed at the transformation of woody biomass into valuable chemicals. The main approach involves the development of highly effective nanocatalysts and use of multifunctional catalytic systems. The project will potentially lead to new efficient routes that will be scaled-up to a pilot plant.

Lay summary

Presently, very few compounds of commercial interest are directly accessible from woody biomass using non-fermentive processes. Despite much progress on the catalytic transfor-mation of woody biomass in the past decade, the situation necessitates the development of a new strategy for wood transformation. This research group is among the pioneers in establish-ing novel conversions of cellulose and lignin, the key components in woody biomass. In the past few years they reported novel nanoparticle catalysts and multifunctional catalytic systems tailor designed for the effective and selective degradation of these biopolymers. In this project, they intend to develop processes that meet commercial expectations.

A distinct transformation strategy for wood, as well as other lignocellulosic materials, into commodity chemicals (monohydric alcohols, diols, and polyols, furfural, furan and hydrofuran derivatives, ketones, acids, and aromatic compounds) which could be further processed into either fine chemicals or fuels, will be explored. To achieve this goal, the project will be carried out in two parallel parts: catalyst optimisation and process optimisation. The first part involves the designing of stable, selective and active nanocatalysts and the development of efficient multifunctional catalytic systems, whereas the second part includes product identification, reaction pathway elucidation and downstream transformations.

The researchers describe a strategy for the concurrent transformation of wood into a variety of chemicals under mild conditions. This project will potentially lead to the utilisation of wood for both chemical and fuel applications. The team hopes to develop a few excellent catalytic systems that will allow the process to be transferred to the pilot plant scale at relatively low cost.