Selective production of phase-separable product from a mixture of biomass-derived aqueous oxygenates

Column: Research    Tag: Biomass conversion

Selective conversion of an aqueous solution of mixed oxygenates produced by biomass fermentation to a value-added single product is pivotal for commercially viable biomass utilization. However, the efficiency and selectivity of the transformation remains a great challenge. Herein, we present a strategy capable of transforming ~70% of carbon in an aqueous fermentation mixture (ABE: acetone–butanol–ethanol–water) to 4-heptanone (4-HPO), catalyzed by tin-doped ceria (Sn-ceria), with a selectivity as high as 86%. Water (up to 27 wt%), detrimental to the reported catalysts for ABE conversion, was beneficial for producing 4-HPO, highlighting the feasibility of the current reaction system. In a 300 h continuous reaction over 2 wt% Sn-ceria catalyst, the average 4-HPO selectivity is maintained at 85% with 50% conversion and > 90% carbon balance. This strategy offers a route for highly efficient organic-carbon utilization, which can potentially integrate biological and chemical catalysis platforms for the robust and highly selective production of value-added chemicals.