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Conversion of recalcitrant cellulose to alkyl levulinates and levulinic acid via oxidation pretreatment combined with alcoholysis over Al2(SO4)3

  • Lipeng Zhou
  • Dongting Gao
  • Jingru Yang
  • Xiaomei Yang
  • Yunlai Su
  • Tianliang LuEmail author
Original Research


Conversion of cellulose to chemicals is an economic and environmental route for biomass utilization. In this work, efficient conversion of cellulose to alkyl levulinates and levulinic acid was realized by oxidation pretreatment combined with alcoholysis over Al2(SO4)3 catalyst. Proper pre-oxidation conditions including oxidation temperature and time are important. By pre-oxidation, part of hydroxymethyl groups on cellulose was converted to carboxyl groups which provide the Brønsted acid sites near the glycosidic bonds to improve the depolymerization of cellulose to monosaccharide. Al2(SO4)3·18H2O can play both Brønsted and Lewis acid roles in methanol and catalyze the conversion of monosaccharide to alkyl levulinates and levulinic acid. After pre-oxidation at optimized conditions, cellulose can be converted into methyl levulinate and levulinic acid over Al2(SO4)3 in methanol efficiently, and total yield of methyl levulinate and levulinic acid can reach 66.8% at 180 °C for 3 h. Furthermore, the simple and cheap Al2(SO4)3 catalyst is recyclable which is important for the practical application.

Graphic abstract


Cellulose Alkyl levulinate Levulinic acid Oxidation Al2(SO4)3 



We acknowledge the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21875222, 21503192, 21802125) and the Natural Science Foundation of Henan Province (182300410122).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflcit of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflcit of interest.

Supplementary material

10570_2019_2903_MOESM1_ESM.doc (436 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 436 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of ChemistryZhengzhou UniversityZhengzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Chemical Engineering and EnergyZhengzhou UniversityZhengzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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