Sulfonated biochar as acid catalyst for sugar hydrolysis and dehydration

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the use of 30 w/v% H2SO4 sulfonated wood waste-derived biochar as catalysts for production of value-added chemicals from carbohydrates in water as an environmentally benign solvent. Physicochemical characteristics of the sulfonated biochar were revealed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), acid-base neutralization titration, gas adsorption analysis, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX). Using the sulfonated biochar as catalysts, hydrolysis of maltose at 140–160 °C resulted in the maximum glucose yield of 85.4% and selectivity of 88.2%, whereas dehydration of fructose at 160–180 °C produced the maximum HMF yield of 42.3% and selectivity of 60.4%. A higher range of reaction temperature was required for fructose dehydration due to the higher energy barrier compared to maltose hydrolysis. While increasing the temperature accelerated the catalytic reactions, the maximum product selectivity remained unchanged in the sulfonated biochar-catalyzed systems. The products were stable despite the increase in reaction time, because rehydration and adsorption of products was found to be minor although polymerization of intermediates led to unavoidable carbon loss. This study highlights the efficacy of engineered biochars in biorefinery as an emerging application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-61
Number of pages10
JournalCatalysis Today
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 15

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Biomass valorization
  • Engineered biochar
  • Fructose dehydration
  • Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)
  • Polysaccharide hydrolysis
  • Waste recycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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