Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 909–923 | Cite as

Hydrothermal liquefaction of protein-containing biomass: study of model compounds for Maillard reactions

  • Y. FanEmail author
  • U. Hornung
  • N. Dahmen
  • A. Kruse
Original Article


The potential application of bio-oil production from nitrogen-containing biomass via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) may be limited due to high nitrogen content, making this product oil unsuitable for fuel-related uses. The Maillard reaction is expected to play a most significant role in the interaction between proteins and carbohydrates during the hydrothermal treatment. To evaluate the Maillard reaction network in this process, lactose, maltose, and lysine were employed as model substances and tested individually and in binary mixtures. HTL experiments were conducted at temperatures between 250 and 350 °C and at 20 min reaction time. When treated individually, conversion of lysine leads to higher bio-oil yields (5–17 wt.%) than the model carbohydrates (6–10 wt.%) during HTL. In mixtures with carbohydrates, the measured bio-oil yields exceeded those obtained from conversion of the single substances (10–39 wt.%). Both yields and the relative nitrogen content of the bio-oil, increase with rising reaction temperature. The composition of the bio-oils obtained through HTL experiments was investigated in more detail: cyclopentenes and furfurals were obtained from disaccharide decomposition, piperidines and quinolines in the bio-oil originate from lysine, pyrazine and its derivatives are obtained from the mixture of lysine and disaccharides. A reaction scheme based on key chemical compounds accompanied with functional groups identified by FT-IR and NMR was developed to provide a better understanding of the Maillard reaction and its impact during HTL of protein-containing biomass.


Hydrothermal liquefaction Bio-oil Nitrogen Maillard reactions 



Armin Lautenbach, Birgit Rolli, Alexandra Böhm, Jessica Mayer, and Sonja Habicht are thanked gratefully for their skillful technical assistance. Thomas Tietz and Matthias Pagel are thanked for the mechanical support. David Steinbach, Frederico Gomes Fonseca, and Muhammad Jamal Alhnidi are appreciated for the instructive suggestions.

Funding information

The authors gratefully acknowlege the financial support from the China Scholarship Council.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

13399_2018_340_MOESM1_ESM.docx (107 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT)KarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Conversion Technologies of Biobased Resources, Institute of Agricultural EngineeringUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany

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