Electrochemical Reduction Selectivity of Crotonaldehyde on Copper

Zachary Barton, Grey Garrett, Nicholas Kurtyka, Taylor Spivey, Joshua Schaidle, Adam Holewinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus Citations


Abstract: Lignocellulosic waste is a potential feedstock for the generation of fuels and commodity chemicals, but existing conversion methods are too cost-intensive to be viable long-term solutions. Electrochemical reductions are promising for decentralized biomass valorization due to their modular scaling and capacity to run intermittently and without high temperatures or pressures. Using crotonaldehyde as a multi-functional model compound for the many partially unsaturated oxygenates found in processed biomass, we here demonstrate the production of butanal, butanol, butene, and butane (variously useful as commodity chemicals and major components of liquified petroleum gas) under ambient conditions by reductive bulk electrolysis with a copper mesh working electrode. We identify an optimum potential for reduced organic production under the reaction conditions and compare product distributions from reductions of intermediate species to further propose branching reaction pathways. Though butanal is typically the most abundant product from crotonaldehyde reduction, most of the butene and butane appear to result from a pathway involving initial reduction of the aldehyde group. We discuss evidence that selectivity is driven by interplay between crotonaldehyde reduction, local pH shifts due to the hydrogen evolution reaction, and changes in site reactivity and availability due to electrode fouling. This demonstration of model electrochemical biomass valorization also serves to inform further exploration into reduction of multi-functional molecules and electrochemical biomass processing in general. Graphic Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5-17
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Electrochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-75748


  • Biomass
  • Bulk electrolysis
  • Crotonaldehyde
  • Electrocatalysis
  • Electrochemical reduction


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