Waste and Biomass Valorization

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 1141–1150 | Cite as

One Pot Cascade Conversion of Bio-Based Furfural to Levulinic Acid with Cu-Doped Niobium Phosphate Catalysts

  • Chengjiang Fang
  • Yanxiu Liu
  • Weibo Wu
  • Hu LiEmail author
  • Zhongwei Wang
  • Wenfeng Zhao
  • Tingting Yang
  • Song YangEmail author
Original Paper


Liquid-phase catalytic hydrogenation of furfural, followed by hydration to levulinic acid has been considered as one of efficient approaches for upgrading pentose sugars. However, a two-step process is generally employed, which involves the separation and purification of the key intermediate furfuryl alcohol from the reaction mixture. To simplify this catalytic process with improved efficiency, Cu-doped niobium phosphate (xCu/NbP; x = 0.1–5.0 wt%, denoted as Cu loading) catalysts with different Cu loadings were prepared by impregnation and reduction, which could catalyze furfural conversion to levulinic acid through a one pot single-step process. The as-prepared xCu/NbP catalysts were characterized by H2-TPR, XRD, NH3-TPD, XPS, the pore size and pore volume and pyridine-adsorption FT-IR. In this study, the effect of Cu loading, formic acid amount, support type, reaction temperature/time and catalyst reusability on the reaction were investigated. It was found that 1.5 wt% Cu/NbP loading exhibited predominant catalytic activity in the cascade conversion of furfural, producing levulinic acid with a high yield of up to 67.0 mmol% using ten equivalent of formic acid at 160 °C for 3 h. Moreover, the possible mechanism was further elucidated. Also, the catalyst could be easily separated from the mixture, and reused with no remarkable loss of reactivity.


Biomass conversion Furfural Levulinic acid Single-step process Heterogeneous catalysis 



This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 21576059, 21666008), and Key Technologies R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2014BAD23B01).

Supplementary material

12649_2017_131_MOESM1_ESM.doc (603 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 603 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State-Local Joint Engineering Laboratory for Comprehensive Utilization of Biomass, State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Green Pesticide and Agricultural Bioengineering (Ministry of Education), Center for Research and Development of Fine ChemicalsGuizhou UniversityGuiyangChina

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