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Chementator: This graphene-based catalyst speeds cellulose saccrification, without H2SO4 waste  

By Edited by Gerald Ondrey |

In order to make ethanol from cellulose, the polysaccharide must first be broken down into sugars (saccharrified) that can be fermented. Normally, this hydrolysis reaction is catalyzed by sulfuric acid or enzymes. However, H2SO4 -based hydrolysis generates spent acid, which has to be separated and regenerated before recycling; and enzyme-driven methods have long reaction times and require pretreatment to remove lignin. A new catalyst that saccharifies cellulose faster than H2SO4 without generating spent acid is being developed by professor Michikazu Hara of Materials & Structures Laboratory (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo; www.msl.titech.ac.jp), in cooperation with Kanagawa Academy of Science & Technology (Kawasaki), and AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology; Tsukuba, all Japan). The new catalyst is based on a thin layer of amorphous carbon known as graphene. To make the catalyst, a carbon base is first formed by the thermal decomposition of cellulose at around 400°C under a nitrogen gas flow. This carbon base is then boiled in fuming sulfuric acid at about 80°C, cooled and washed with water. The resulting catalyst consists of 1-nm thick graphene sheets, each having high density…
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