Bio-phenols production from lignocellulosic biomass

Period of Performance: 09/27/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

2720 CRIMSON WAY Array
Richland, WA 99354
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


More than 95% of phenol used today is derived from petroleum based benzene by cumene process. The proposed research stems from our previous studies showing activated carbon as catalysts can convert oxygenated compounds generated from pyrolysis into high value and high purity phenols. We believe it was the first observation that carbon catalyst can effectively catalyze lignocellulose biomass conversion into renewable phenols. Our carbon catalysis removed organic acids from bio-oils which are suitable for non-corrosive storage and transportation. However, carbon used was coal based and not renewable. The proposed research tests the hypothesis that carbon catalyst prepared from lignocellulosic biomass is effective at carbon catalysis for phenols. We will test this hypothesis by monitoring properties of biomass carbon catalyst during catalyst preparation and catalysis. The specific objectives are: 1) to develop biomass derived carbon catalysts that can produce phenols efficiently from forest biomass; 2) to maximize yield and productivity of phenols per ton of biomass; and 3) to estimate the techno-economic feasibility of conversion of forest biomass to phenols.The economic production of a renewable chemical alternative as a direct replacement of the non-renewable fossil chemical using cellulosic biomass as its feedstock will generate a systematic reduction of foreign oil shipments to the United States to enhance national security. The preliminary economic analysis shows significant margins for biomass conversion to renewable phenols. The proposed renewable upgrading process technology relates to the existing biomass conversion industry. The proposed process would be a disruptive improvement that could either replace or partially replace the existing upgrading process technology as a means to satisfy the requirements of the replacing petroleum chemicals, and more importantly expand the current bio-chemicals market by generating a high value chemical that can be used in applications where bio-oils cannot be sold. The project will directly create one more job during phase I and create 4 jobs during phase II.