The role of catalyst acidity and shape selectivity on products from the catalytic fast pyrolysis of beech wood

Joseph Socci, Alireza Saraeian, Stylianos D. Stefanidis, Scott W. Banks, Brent H. Shanks, Tony Bridgwater

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The catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) of biomass represents an efficient integrated process to produce deoxygenated stable liquid fuels and valuable chemical products from lignocellulosic biomass. The zeolite ZSM-5 is a widely studied catalyst for the CFP process. However, its microporous structure may limit the diffusion of high molecular weight pyrolysis intermediates to its active sites. Mesoporous aluminosilicates such as Al-SBA-15 are promising materials with larger pore sizes that can overcome these diffusional limitations. Previous comparisons between mesoporous aluminosilicates and ZSM-5 for the CFP process have neglected the disproportionately high acidity of ZSM-5. In this study, an Al-SBA-15 catalyst has been synthesised with high acidity, comparable to that of a ZSM-5 catalyst with a Si:Al ratio of 15:1. The synthesised Al-SBA-15 catalyst was characterised by N2 physisorption, XRD and propylamine-TPD, and was compared to a ZSM-5 catalyst and a typical industrial equilibrium fluid catalytic cracking catalyst (e-FCC). All three catalysts were used at three different catalyst to biomass (C/B) ratios, to investigate the effect of varying concentrations of acid sites on the product distribution from the catalytic fast pyrolysis of beech wood. Interestingly, despite their dissimilar structural architectures, all three solid acid catalysts displayed similar reaction pathways towards the cracking of high molecular weight products such as levoglucosan and formation of intermediates including phenolics and furans. However, the selectivity towards the final catalytic products was dictated mainly by the structure of the catalysts. Despite their very similar surface area and acidity, the ZSM-5 exhibited high selectivity for the formation of desirable aromatic hydrocarbon products due to its shape-selective micropore structure, while Al-SBA-15 instead shifted the selectivity towards the formation of undesirable coke. The results highlighted the importance of catalyst shape-selectivity in the catalytic fast pyrolysis of biomass for the conversion of pyrolysis vapours into desirable products and the suppression of undesirable solid byproduct formation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104710
JournalJournal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis
Early online date17 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Analytical pyrolysis
  • Biomass
  • Catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • Mesoporous materials
  • Zeolite


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