UMass research team develops improved process to create p-xylene from biomass

UMass research team develops improved process to create p-xylene from biomass
Researchers in the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) recently developed a chemical process that uses biomass to create p-xylene, an ingredient of common plastics that is currently derived from petroleum, with a 97 percent yield.
“Progress of the type reported in this paper exemplifies what is possible within the highly collaborative environment fostered by CCEI,” Michael Tsapatsis, a member of the research team from the University of Minnesota, said.
Tsapatsis joined UMass professor Wei Fan and doctoral students Hong Je Cho and Vivek Vattipalli, as well as seven other team members from other institutions, as they developed a process that significantly improves the yield compared to previous biomass-generated p-xylene, which had a yield of at most 75 percent. They achieved this with a new zeolite catalyst, which discourages chemical reaction that produces p-xylene from creating other byproducts.
“The phosphorous containing zeolite catalysts exhibit high surface area and well dispersed phosphorous active sites,” Fan said. “Different from conventional acid catalysts, the phosphorous containing zeolite catalysts is highly selective for p-xylene production. The selectivity is unique and has not been observed in the past. It can be easily used for many other important catalytic reactions.”

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