Valorization of Sugarcane Bagasse to a Platform Chemical (Levulinic Acid) Catalysed by 1-Butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium Tetrafluoroborate ([BMMim][BF4])


The Biofine process is the currently used method for the industrial production of levulinic acid (LA) from biomass. In this process sulfuric acid is used to catalyze the reaction, the former is a corrosive and toxic catalyst. In this work, an environmental friendly catalyst: 1-butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate ([BMMim][BF4]) was used to optimize the LA production from depithed sugarcane bagasse (DSB). The Box–Behnken design (response surface methodology) was used to design the set of experiments with three variables, namely, time, temperature and catalyst loading. The optimum condition for water as a solvent was 100 °C, 7 h and 4 g of a catalyst which yielded a maximum amount of 44.8% of LA from DSB. When different solvents were investigated at the optimum condition for LA production, methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) was the best solvent (54.2%). This study also showed that [BMMim][BF4] is capable of theoretically producing 62.1% of LA. The reusability study showed that [BMMim][BF4] can be used for up to four times without losing it activity.

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The authors would like to show gratitude to National Research Foundation (NRF), L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa Regional fellowships and Durban University of Technology for financial support. South Milling Research Institute (SMRI) for the provision of Sugarcane Bagasse.

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Correspondence to Lethiwe D. Mthembu.

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See Fig. 5

Fig. 5

FTIR scan for LA, where the FTIR scan of LA standard, LA from DSB, and LA from glucose are combined to observe differences and similarities

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Mthembu, L.D., Lokhat, D. & Deenadayalu, N. Valorization of Sugarcane Bagasse to a Platform Chemical (Levulinic Acid) Catalysed by 1-Butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium Tetrafluoroborate ([BMMim][BF4]). Waste Biomass Valor 12, 199–209 (2021).

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  • Ionic liquids
  • Sugarcane bagasse
  • Levulinic acid
  • Value added products
  • Optimization