Phosphoric acid-activated wood biochar for catalytic conversion of starch-rich food waste into glucose and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural

Leichang Cao, Iris K.M. Yu, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Shicheng Zhang, Yong Sik Ok, Eilhann E. Kwon, Hocheol Song, Chi Sun Poon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


The catalytic activity of engineered biochar was scrutinized for generation of glucose and hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) from starch-rich food waste (bread, rice, and spaghetti). The biochar catalysts were synthesized by chemical activation of pinewood sawdust with phosphoric acid at 400–600 °C. Higher activation temperatures enhanced the development of porosity and acidity (characterized by C–O–PO3 and C–PO3 surface groups), which imparted higher catalytic activity of H3PO4-activated biochar towards starch hydrolysis and fructose dehydration. Positive correlations were observed between HMF selectivity and ratio of mesopore to micropore volume, and between fructose conversion and total acid density. High yields of glucose (86.5 Cmol% at 150 °C, 20 min) and HMF (30.2 Cmol% at 180 °C, 20 min) were produced from rice starch and bread waste, respectively, over H3PO4-activated biochar. These results highlighted the potential of biochar catalyst in biorefinery as an emerging application of engineered biochar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-248
Number of pages7
JournalBioresource technology
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors appreciate the financial support from the Environment and Conservation Fund [ K-ZB78 ], Hong Kong Research Grants Council [PolyU 15217818], and Hong Kong International Airport Environmental Fund [K-ZJKC].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Acid activation
  • Biorefinery
  • Engineered biochar
  • Food waste valorization
  • Lignocellulosic biomass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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