Renewable Acrylonitrile Production

Gregg Beckham, Eric Karp, Todd Eaton, Violeta Sanchez i Nogue, Eric Tan, David Brandner, William Michener, Derek Vardon, Adam Bratis, Rongming Liu, Ryan Gill, Michelle Gilhespy, Zinovia Skoufa, Michael Watson, O. Fruchey, Robin Cywar, Vassili Vorotnikov, Mary Biddy, Lorenz Manker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus Citations


Acrylonitrile (ACN) is a petroleum-derived compound used in resins, polymers, acrylics, and carbon fiber. We present a process for renewable ACN production using 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), which can be produced microbially from sugars. The process achieves ACN molar yields exceeding 90% from ethyl 3-hydroxypropanoate (ethyl 3-HP) via dehydration and nitrilation with ammonia over an inexpensive titanium dioxide solid acid catalyst. We further describe an integrated process modeled at scale that is based on this chemistry and achieves near-quantitative ACN yields (98 ± 2%) from ethyl acrylate. This endothermic approach eliminates runaway reaction hazards and achieves higher yields than the standard propylene ammoxidation process. Avoidance of hydrogen cyanide as a by-product also improves process safety and mitigates product handling requirements.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1307-1310
Number of pages4
Issue number6368
StatePublished - 8 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-69050


  • 3-HP
  • 3-hydroxypropionic acid
  • ACN
  • acrylonitrile
  • lignocellulose
  • renewable
  • sugars


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