Biomass resource is very rich. The annual global biomass production is equivalent to 10 times of world energy consumption. Almost all biomass is in the form of lignocellulose that contains about 50% cellulose (e.g., wood, grass and crop-straws). Therefore, how to effectively and economically convert cellulose to sugars is the key for biorefining of biomass to biofuels and chemicals.

  Typical hydrolysis methods are using enzymes, homogeneous acids and sub- or super-critical water. However, these processes have significant drawbacks such as high-cost of enzymes, difficulty in separation of catalysts, corrosion of reactors, waste effluents and severe reaction conditions. So, inexpensive, high-active and easily-separated solid nanocatalysts are needed to be developed for hydrolysis.

  Prof. FANG Zhen and his research team of Xishuangbana Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) synthesized hydrotalcite nanoparticles. The nanoparticles were further activated with Ca(OH)2, and used for cellulose hydrolysis. It was found that over 46% cellulose was hydrolyzed to water soluble-products that contain 85% glucose. The nanocatalyst was stable and unleachable, and was separated for four cycles without losing its activity.

  Currently, Prof. Fang’s team is synthesizing more stable and active nanocatalysts using novel supercritical water technique that is a rapid and controllable process. At the same time, green solvents (e.g., supercritical fluids, ionic liquids and organic solvents) are used to solubilize solid biomass to liquid biomass solution that is easily to be further refined to value-added products like liquid petroleum.

Details about the research can be referred to:

1. Zhen Fang*, F. Zhang,H.Y. Zeng, F. Guo, Production of glucose by hydrolysis of cellulose at 423 K in the presence of activated hydrotalcite nanoparticles, Bioresource Technology, (June 2011): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852411008790

2. Zhen Fang*, Fan Zhang, Xin Deng, F. Guo, A solid catalyst and its application in cellulose hydrolysis.

Chinese invention patent application #: 201110106853.x, application date: April 28, 2011.

3. Zhen Fang (Author), Rapid production of micro- and nano-particles using supercritical water, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, ISBN: 978-3-642-12986-5, hardcover, 130 pages, August 2010.

4.  J. M. Marchetti, Zhen Fang (Editors),Biodiesel: Blends, Properties and Applications (Hardback). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., ISBN 13: 9781613246603 ISBN 10: 1613246609, Sep. 2011.

5. Zhen Fang (Author), Complete dissolution and oxidation of organic wastes in water, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken, Germany, ISBN: 9783639144246, paperback, 192 pages, April 2009.

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