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Make more from biomass with iron

By Tetsuo Satoh |

Nippon Shokubai Co. (Osaka and Tokyo, Japan; www.shokubai.co.jp) has jointly developed a new process for biomass utilization in collaboration with professor Yuichi Kita at Kobe University (www.kobe-u.ac.jp). The process is highly efficient for decomposing lignocellulose into a group of water-soluble compounds that consist mainly of 2–6 carbon atoms. It is carried out in hot water at 250–300°C in the presence of metallic iron. Unlike the conventional methods, this method reduces useless consumption of biomass resources and enables an efficient utilization of the whole biomass. Furthermore, by using a solid acid catalyst, such as ZSM-5 zeolite, the obtained water-soluble compounds can be converted to olefinic hydrocarbons, such as ethylene, propylene and butylene, or aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene, toluene and xylenes. With such sustainable building blocks, Nippon Shokubai estimates it could reduce the production cost of raw materials for superabsorbent polymer (SAP) down to 30%. In collaboration with chemicals manufacturers, the company aims to use this technology industrially after 2020. In conventional hydrothermal liquefaction (diagram, left), high-temperature water thermally decomposes biomass into water- and oil-soluble…
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