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Steering the Ester and γ‑Valerolactone Selectivities in Levulinic Acid Hydrogenation

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journal contribution
posted on 22.05.2018, 00:00 by Gayatri B. Kasar, Nandan S. Date, P. N. Bhosale, Chandrashekhar V. Rode
Both alkyl esters and γ-valerolactone (GVL) derived from levulinic acid (LA) have applications as renewable transportation fuel/fuel additives. Non-noble metal cobalt supported on La2O3 catalyst was developed for efficient cascade LA hydrogenation to GVL via esterification. LA hydrogenation in methanol alone yielded methyl levulinate (MeLA) as a major product along with 43% of GVL. Interestingly, hydrogenation in water gave almost complete selectivity to GVL; nevertheless, it was associated with significant metal leaching. Suppression of metal leaching and enhancement in selectivity to GVL could be achieved by a methanol/water (95:5) solvent system. XRD analysis of La2O3-supported catalysts evidenced the characteristic peaks of a mixture of La2O3 and La­(OH)3 phases. Basicity, as well as acidity, of the catalyst as determined by CO2 and NH3 TPD was due to these La2O3, Co–La, and La­(OH)3 phases which played an important role in directing the product selectivity in levulinic acid hydrogenation. At the low temperature of 160 °C, almost equal selectivities of MeLA (47%) and GVL (43%) were observed, while higher temperature (200 °C) favored further hydrogenation of MeLA to GVL (75%). Similarly, with an increase in reaction time to 9 h, the GVL selectivity achieved was as high as 80%. The selectivity to MeLA and GVL in LA hydrogenation over Co/La2O3 catalyst can be altered by suitably adjusting the reaction conditions.