Production of Methyl Lactate with Sn-USY and Sn-β: Insights into Real Hemicellulose Valorization

Jose M. Jiménez-Martin, Miriam El Tawil-Lucas, Maia Montaña, María Linares, Amin Osatiashtiani, Francisco Vila, David Martín Alonso, Jovita Moreno, Alicia García, Jose Iglesias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Potassium exchanged Sn-β and Sn-USY zeolites have been tested for the transformation of various aldoses (hexoses and pentoses), exhibiting outstanding catalytic activity and selectivity toward methyl lactate. Insights into the transformation pathways using reaction intermediates─dihydroxyacetone and glycolaldehyde─as substrates revealed a very high catalytic proficiency of both zeolites in aldol and retro-aldol reactions, showcasing their ability to convert small sugars into large sugars, and vice versa. This feature makes the studied Sn-zeolites outstanding catalysts for the transformation of a wide variety of sugars into a limited range of commercially valuable alkyl lactates and derivatives. [K]Sn-β proved to be superior to [K]Sn-USY in terms of shape selectivity, exerting tight control on the distribution of produced α-hydroxy methyl esters. This shape selectivity was evident in the transformation of several complex sugar mixtures emulating different hemicelluloses─sugar cane bagasse, Scots pine, and white birch─that, despite showing very different sugar compositions, were almost exclusively converted into methyl lactate and methyl vinyl glycolate in very similar proportions. Moreover, the conversion of a real hemicellulose hydrolysate obtained from Scots pine through a simple GVL-based organosolv process confirmed the high activity and selectivity of [K]Sn-β in the studied transformation, opening new pathways for the chemical valorization of this plentiful, but underutilized, sugar feedstock.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2771-2782
Number of pages12
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry Engineering
Issue number7
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society. This publication is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 (


  • Sn-USY
  • Sn-β
  • biomass
  • hemicellulose
  • methyl lactate
  • retroaldol reaction
  • zeolites


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