Valorization of humin type byproducts from pyrolytic sugar conversions to biobased chemicals

R. M. Abdilla-Santes, S. Agarwal, X. Xi, H. J. Heeres*, P. J. Deuss, H. J. Heeres*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The pyrolytic sugar fraction, obtained by an aqueous extraction of pyrolysis oil, is an attractive source for sugar-derived platform chemicals. However, solids (humin) formation occurs to a significant extent during hydrolysis and subsequent acid-catalyzed conversion processes. In this study, we report investigations on possible conversion routes (pyrolysis, liquefaction) of such humin byproducts to biobased chemicals. Experiments were carried out with a model humin made from a representative technical pyrolytic sugar and the product was characterized by elemental analysis, GPC, TGA, HPLC, GC-MS, FT-IR and NMR. The obtained humin sample is soluble in organic solvents (dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), tetrahydrofuran (THF), and isopropanol (IPA)), in contrast to typical more condensed humins from glucose and fructose, allowing characterization using NMR and GPC. All analyses reveal that the humins are oligomeric in nature (Mw of about 900 g/mol) and consist of sugar and furanic fragments linked with among others (substituted) aliphatic, ester units and, in addition, phenolic fragments with methoxy groups. The humins were used as a feed for catalytic pyrolysis and catalytic liquefaction experiments. Catalytic pyrolysis experiments (mg scale, programmable temperature vaporizer (PTV)-GC–MS, 550 °C) with HZSM-5−50 as the catalyst gave benzene-toluene-xylene-naphthalene-ethylbenzene mixtures (BTXNE) in 5.1 wt% yield based on humin intake. Liquefaction experiments (batch reactor, 350 °C, 4 h, isopropanol as both the solvent and hydrogen donor and Pt/CeO2 (4.43 wt% Pt) catalyst) resulted in 80 wt% conversion of the humin feed to a product oil with considerable amounts of phenolics and aromatics (ca. 24.7 % based on GC detectables in the humin oil). These findings imply that the techno-economic viability of pyrolysis oil biorefineries can be improved by converting humin type byproducts to high value, low molecular weight biobased chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104963
JournalJournal of analytical and applied pyrolysis
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Biobased chemicals
  • Humins pyrolysis
  • Liquefaction
  • Pyrolysis oil biorefinery
  • Pyrolytic sugars
  • n/a OA procedure


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