Synthesis of some C4, C5 carboxilic acid building block chemicals from renewable biomass resources (BIOBUILD)
UEFISCDI, PN-II-PT-PCCA-2011-3.2-1367, no 31/2012

It is well known that the reserves of oil, natural gas and coal are limited. In contrast, biomass is a reliable resource for fuels and chemicals in the long term. Supplementing petroleum consumption with renewable biomass resources is of critical importance in sustaining the growth of the chemical industry.

A key to the chemical industries gradual shift toward the use of renewable biomass resources is the implementation of the bio-refinery concept. Similar to a petroleum refinery, a bio-refinery integrates a variety of processing technologies to produce multiple bio-products from various bio-masses. In 2004 the US Department of Energy published the report "Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass Volume Iā€”Results of Screening for Potential Candidates from Sugars and Synthesis Gas".
Levulinic and succinic acids are the two target molecules, selected from the twelve building block chemicals identified by this report, for which we intend to develop in the frame of this project sustainable industrial synthetic routes based on sugar containing renewable resources.

A set of interconnected technologies will be devised including:
  1. conversion of alternative bio-masses (wood, potatoes, corn) to levulinic acid using combined ultrasound assisted heterogeneous catalytic process;
  2. synthesis of succinic acid from levulinic acid or furfural, main by-product of levulinic acid production, by novel heterogeneous catalytic processes;
  3. conversion of levulinic acid to methyltetrahydrofurane;
  4. conversion of glucose and/or glycerol to succinic acid by a fermentation process using novel genetically engineered E. coli strains.

In agreement with these tasks, appropriate research groups with complementing expertise in organic synthesis, catalysts design and preparation, process development, bio-engineering and biotechnology have organised a consortium together with industrial partners interested biomass valorisation.