In China, researchers from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues from Peking University recently reported an efficient and novel catalytic method for the conversion of aqueous biomass fermentation broth to a water-immiscible product. Their finding was published in Nature Communications.
They developed a strategy capable of transforming ~70 percent of carbon in an aqueous ABE fermentation mixture to 4-heptanone (4-HPO), catalyzed by tin-doped ceria (Sn-ceria) with a selectivity as high as 86 percent. While Sn-ceria is a versatile catalyst for dehydrogenation, the Guerbet alcohol reaction, condensation, and esterification reactions, all these reactions, involving acid-base catalysis and redox ones, relay and generate 4-HPO with high selectivity. 4-HPO is a value-added intermediate and can be used to produce jet fuel and fine chemicals.
Furthermore, water, which is detrimental to the reported catalysts for ABE conversion, was beneficial for producing 4-HPO. The excellent catalytic performance of tin-doped ceria is due to the highly dispersed tin species and oxygen vacancies of ceria.