Biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals provides sustainability, but the highly oxygenated nature of a large fraction of biomass-derived molecules requires removal of the excess oxygen and partial hydrogenation in the upgrade, typically met by hydrodeoxygenation processes. Catalytic transfer hydrogenation is a general approach in accomplishing this with renewable organic hydrogen donors, but mechanistic understanding is currently lacking. Here, we elucidate the molecular level reaction pathway of converting hemicellulose-derived furfural to 2-methylfuran on a bifunctional Ru/RuOx/C catalyst using isopropyl alcohol as the hydrogen donor via a combination of isotopic labeling and kinetic studies. Hydrogenation of the carbonyl group of furfural to furfuryl alcohol proceeds through a Lewis acid-mediated intermolecular hydride transfer and hydrogenolysis of furfuryl alcohol occurs mainly via ring-activation involving both metal and Lewis acid sites. Our results show that the bifunctional nature of the catalyst is critical in the efficient hydrodeoxygenation of furanics and provides insights toward the rational design of such catalysts.
- catalytic transfer hydrogenation
- ring activation
ASJC Scopus subject areas