What is biolevulinic acid?

Biolevulinic acid is a keto acid that us utilized in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, nylons, and potentially fuels. Derived from lignocellulosic feedstocks via acid hydrolysis, biolevulinic acid is an extremely useful building block in the production of many materials and products. Applications of the organic molecule include chiral reagents, lubricants, polymers, coatings, batteries, and even drug delivery systems. As it is a potentially broad spectrum base material, there is a demand which sets the current price at $4.00 to $6.00 per pound. One product derived from biolevulinic acid is methyltetrahydrofuran, or MTHF. This compound is being investigated as a fuel extender for vehicles at a currently undefined mixture ratio. Biolevulinic acid is also being converted to ?-valerolactone, which can be further converted into liquid alkenes. Liquid alkenes can be utilized as a drop-in replacement for transportation fuels.



How is biolevulinic acid made?

Previous methods for the production of levulinic acid relied on the use of heated sucrose and concentrated hydrochloric acid. While this process had various advantages, the use of non-renewable resources incurred a considerable amount of concern in the areas of cost and efficiency. Recent investigations have resulted in the ability to produce biolevulinic acid from renewable lignocellulosic feedstocks. While initial biorefinement processes were successful, they yielded too many byproducts and utilized very costly feedstocks. However, these issues have been addressed by Biofine Corporation. Improvements are expected to be made as the process in further utilized and investigated.

References

Li Deng, Yan Zhao, Jiang Li, Prof. Yao Fu, Prof. Bing Liao, Prof. Qing-Xiang Guo (2010) Conversion of Levulinic Acid and Formic Acid into ?-Valerolactone over Heterogeneous Catalysts. ChemSusChem doi: 10.1002/cssc.201000163

Joseph J. Bozell, L. Moens, D. C. Elliott, Y. Wang, G. G. Neuenscwander, S. W. Fitzpatrick, R. J. Bilski, J. L. Jarnefeld, Production of levulinic acid and use as a platform chemical for derived products, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 28, Issues 3-4, February 2000, Pages 227-239, ISSN 0921-3449, DOI: 10.1016/S0921-3449(99)00047-6.




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