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Direct Conversion of Sugars and Ethyl Levulinate into γ-Valerolactone with Superparamagnetic Acid–Base Bifunctional ZrFeOx Nanocatalysts

Li, Hu, Fang, Zhen, Yang, Song
ACS sustainable chemistry 2016 v.4 no.1 pp. 236-246
catalytic activity, ethanol, iron oxides, magnetic materials, magnetism, nanoparticles, porosity, solvents, sugars, surface area
Acid–base bifunctional superparamagnetic FeZrOₓ nanoparticles were synthesized via a two-step process of solvothermal treatment and hydrolysis–condensation, and were further employed to catalyze the conversion of ethyl levulinate (EL) to γ-valerolactone (GVL) using ethanol as both H-donor and solvent. ZrFeO(1:3)-300 nanoparticles (12.7 nm) with Fe₃O₄ core covered by ZrO₂ layer (0.65 nm thickness) having well-distributed acid–base sites (0.39 vs 0.28 mmol/g), moderate surface area (181 m²/g), pore size (9.8 nm), and strong magnetism (35.4 Am² kg–¹) exhibited superior catalytic performance, giving a high GVL yield of 87.2% at 230 °C in 3 h. The combination of the nanoparticles with solid acid HY2.6 promoted the direct transformation of sugars to produce GVL in moderate yield (around 45%). Moreover, the nanocatalyst was easily recovered by a magnet for six cycles with an average GVL yield of 83.9% from EL.