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Intensification of biomass upgrading processes catalysed by heterogeneous catalysts

Caiti, Massimiliano 2021. Intensification of biomass upgrading processes catalysed by heterogeneous catalysts. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Developing efficient catalytic processes to upgrade biomass is critical to steer chemical production from fossil feedstock and towards renewable carbon sources. Although some promising heterogeneous catalysed reactions for biomass valorisation have been developed in laboratory research, intensification studies aimed at maximising their efficiency and scalability are much less common. Therefore, the real potential of these technologies to be industrialised is currently unknown. For this reason, during my PhD I intended to intensify appealing biomass upgrading reactions, hitherto explored only on small-scale batch systems, with aim of better evaluating their industrial implementation. Specifically, in Chapter 3, the development of a continuous process to decompose formic acid into hydrogen by means of palladium nanoparticles was attempted. Detailed catalyst deactivation studies allowed the conceptualisation of a more efficient continuous system, which achieved enhanced continuous performances. In the fourth chapter, a liquid-phase continuous process to dehydrate sorbitol to isosorbide was explored. The employment of a liquid-phase and the use of methanol as reaction solvent permitted unprecedented catalyst stability and isosorbide productivity to be achieved. In light of the process improvements achieved in Chapter 4, the employment of methanol as reaction solvent was studied also for the continuous dehydration of fructose to furanic compounds, which is described in Chapter 5. The use of methanol allowed the reaction to tolerate additions of water to the reaction environment without compromising furanics stability, as has been reported when other solvents are employed. The possibility of conducting fructose dehydration in presence of small water amounts allowed new cutting-edge solutions for furanics production to be proposed, such as the integration of fructose dehydration with glucose isomerisation. The intensification studies performed within this thesis demonstrate that there are still margins to improve biomass upgrading technologies, which must be pursued to make possible the replacement of fossil feedstock with renewable sources in chemical production.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Chemistry
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 August 2022
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2022 11:05

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