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Biomass Treatment using Ionic Liquids (ILs)

Project Background

Co-PI: Dr. Pascale Champagne, Queen's University, Civil Engineering & Dr. Ralph Whitney, Department of Chemistry, Queen's University

Use of biomass has become a research priority in producing economically viable renewable energy, and higher value chemical products derived from renewable resources. Providing a source of chemicals from renewable resources will provide an alternative to chemicals derived from fossil fuels.

Efficient utilization of cellulose-based biomass feedstocks is limited by their complex compositions and structures. (Cellulose-based biomass is derived from sources such as trees and plants like switchgrass, while starch-based biomass is derived from sources such as corn.) Novel pretreatment methods using ionic liquids (ILs) are creating new opportunities in biomass conversion. ILs are organic salts that exist as liquids. With tuneable properties and good thermal stability, they are being actively investigated as “green solvents” for a variety of industrial and research applications, particularly chemical synthesis, catalysis and separation of cellulose-based biomass. Cellulose can be dissolved in a range of ionic liquids and, perhaps more importantly, readily recovered in pure form from these solutions, which allows it to be used in a wide variety of products.

The efficient conversion of biomass has become a research priority in producing economically viable renewable energy and higher value chemical products. The proposed fundamental study aims to provide a platform for the use of ILs in the recovery of C3 building block chemicals (e.g. molecules containing 3 carbon atoms that can be used to produce a variety of other chemicals) from sources such as forestry residues.