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Hydrolysis Catalysis of Miscanthus Xylan to Xylose Using Weak-Acid Surface Sites

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journal contribution
posted on 03.01.2014, 00:00 by Po-Wen Chung, Alexandre Charmot, Olayinka A. Olatunji-Ojo, Kathleen A. Durkin, Alexander Katz
Adsorption and hydrolysis of xylan polysaccharides extracted from Miscanthus biomass are demonstrated, using surface-functionalized MCN (mesoporous carbon nanoparticle) materials that comprise weak-acid sites, at a pH corresponding to biomass extract. Extracted xylan polysaccharides consist of a peak molecular weight of 2008 g/mol according to GPC (gel-permeation chromatography), corresponding to approximately 15 xylose repeat units, and, a calculated length of 7 nm and radius of gyration of 2.0 nm based on molecular dynamics simulations. A highly active material for the adsorption and depolymerization of xylan is a hydrothermally treated sulfonated MCN material, which consists of 90% weak-acid sites. In spite of the large polysaccharide size relative to its 1.6 nm pore radius, this material adsorbs up to 76% of xylan strands from extract solution, at a weight loading of 29% relative to MCN. Starting with a 9.7% xylose yield in Miscanthus extract, this material hydrolyzes extracted xylan to xylose, and achieves a 74.1% xylose yield, compared with 24.1% yield for the background reaction in acetate buffer, at 150 °C for 4 h. Catalytic comparisons with other MCN-based materials highlight the role of confinement and weak-acid surface sites, and provide some correlation between activity and phenolic OH acid-site density. However, the lack of a directly proportional correlation between weak-acid site density and catalyzed hydrolysis rate signifies that only a fraction of weak-acid surface sites are catalytically active, and this is likely to be the sites that are present in a high local concentration on the surface, which would be consistent with previously observed trends in the hydrolysis catalysis of chemisorbed glucans on inorganic-oxide surfaces.