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Valorization of alcohols issued from biomass


Facing an important environmental crisis, there is an urgent need to find solutions for replacing fossil fuels as energy sources and raw material for chemicals. In this context, the development of the biomass sector is in an exponential way. Biomass fermentation gives bioethanol (BEt), biomethanol (BMet) and glycerol as a byproduct. The monoalcohols can be directly blended with commercial fuels but, due to technological constraints, they are preferably converted to more suitable compounds before blending. Reaction with isobutene yields ETBE and MTBE with adequate cetane and octane numbers but, as a drawback, this technology is dependant on isobutene supply from fossil fuels. Triglycerides from biomass are reacted with BMet to lower their viscosity before blending the obtained so-called 'biodiesel' with commercial fuels. This reaction yields glycerol as a byproduct. Even if the governments actively encourage biodiesel production, private consumers showed that if basic precautions are taken, the triglycerides could be directly used in conventional engines.

From the above, it appears that:
(1) more adequate solutions for valorising BMet and BEt are required and
(2) solutions for valorising glycerol by-produced during biomass fermentation and during biodiesel formation must be found.

This project addresses these issues as follows:
(1) Based on promising results of preliminary studies, we plan to develop catalysts that enable direct conversion of BMet and BEt to methylal and acetal, respectively. These compounds are suitable for direct use as fuel additives and they can be profitably used in replacement of oxygenated solvents usually obtained from petroleum-derived products.
(2) Catalysts for glycerol selective oxidation to high value added chemicals (aldehydes and carboxylic acids) will be developed. These studies will be performed using specifically designed Operando cells to enable original mechanistic studies as a base for back optimisation of the catalysts.

Call for proposal

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