Synergetic Effects of Alcohol/Water Mixing on the Catalytic Reductive Fractionation of Poplar Wood

Wouter Schutyser, Tom Renders, Sander Van den Bosch, Thijs Vangeel, Thijs Ennaert, Steven-Friso Koelewijn, Gil Van den Bossche, Christophe Courtin, Bert Sels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus Citations


One of the foremost challenges in lignocellulose conversion encompasses the integration of effective lignin valorization in current carbohydrate-oriented biorefinery schemes. Catalytic reductive fractionation (CRF) of lignocellulose offers a technology to simultaneously produce lignin-derived platform chemicals and a carbohydrate-enriched pulp via the combined action of lignin solvolysis and metal-catalyzed hydrogenolysis. Herein, the solvent (composition) plays a crucial role. In this contribution, we study the influence of alcohol/water mixtures by processing poplar sawdust in varying MeOH/water and EtOH/water blends. The results show particular effects that strongly depend on the applied water concentration. Low water concentrations enhance the removal of lignin from the biomass, while the majority of the carbohydrates are left untouched (scenario A). Contrarily, high water concentrations favor the solubilization of both hemicellulose and lignin, resulting in a more pure cellulosic residue (scenario B). For both scenarios, an evaluation was made to determine the most optimal solvent composition, based on two earlier introduced empirical efficiency descriptors (denoted LFDE and LFFE). According to these measures, 30 (A) and 70 vol % water (B) showed to be the optimal balance for both MeOH/water and EtOH/water mixtures. This successful implementation of alcohol/water mixtures allows operation under milder processing conditions in comparison to pure alcohol solvents, which is advantageous from an industrial point of view.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6894-6904
Number of pages11
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-67705


  • biomass
  • biorefinery
  • CRF
  • fractionation
  • heterogeneous catalysis
  • lignin
  • lignocellulose
  • solvent effects


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