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Solid residue and by-product yields from acid-catalysed conversion of poplar wood to levulinic acid

G. Hurst, I. Brangeli, M. Peeters, and S. Tedesco

Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK



Received: 25 July 2019  Accepted: 26 November 2019


This study examines the yields of solid residue and by-product from the microwave-assisted acid hydrolysis of lignocellulosic poplar wood for levulinic acid production. The aim of this study was to optimise levulinic acid production via response surface methodology (RSM) and also investigate the effect of reaction conditions on other products such as furfural, solid residue, formic acid and acetic acid yields. A maximum theoretical levulinic acid yield of 62.1% (21.0 wt %) was predicted when reaction conditions were 188 °C, 126 min and 1.93 M sulphuric acid, with a corresponding solid residue yield of 59.2 wt %. Furfural from the hydrolysis of hemicellulose was found to have significantly degraded at the optimum levulinic acid yield conditions. The investigation of formic acid yields revealed lower formic acid yields than stoichiometrically expected, indicating the organic acid reactions under microwave-assisted hydrolysis of lignocellulose. The solid residue yields were found to increase significantly with increasing reaction time and temperature. The solid residue yields under all conditions exceeded that of levulinic acid and, therefore, should be considered a significant product alongside the high-value compounds. The solid residue was further examined using IR spectra, elemental analysis and XRF for potential applications. The overall results show that poplar wood has great potential to produce renewable chemicals, but also highlight all by-products must be considered during optimization.

Keywords: Biorefining; Catalysis; Levulinic acid; Solid residues; Microwave; Acid hydrolysis

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.1007/s11696-019-01013-3


Chemical Papers 74 (5) 1647–1661 (2020)

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