Design of Nickel Supported on Water-Tolerant Nb2O5 Catalysts for the Hydrotreating of Lignin Streams Obtained from Lignin-First Biorefining

Glauco F. Leal, Sérgio Lima, Inês Graça, Heloise Carrer, Dean H. Barrett, Erico Teixeira-Neto, Antonio Aprigio S. Curvelo, Cristiane B. Rodella, Roberto Rinaldi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
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In biomass conversion, Nb2O5 has attracted increasing attention as a catalyst support presenting water-tolerant Lewis acid sites. Herein, we address the design of Ni/Nb2O5 catalysts for hydrotreating of lignin to hydrocarbons. To optimize the balance between acidic and hydrogenating properties, the catalysts were first evaluated in the hydrotreating of diphenyl ether. The best catalyst candidate was further explored in the conversion of lignin oil obtained by catalytic upstream biorefining of poplar. As primary products, cycloalkanes were obtained, demonstrating the potential of Ni/Nb2O5 catalysts for the lignin-to-fuels route. However, the Lewis acidity of Nb2O5 also catalyzes coke formation via lignin species condensation. Thereby, an acidity threshold should be found so that dehydration reactions essential to the hydrotreatment are not affected, but the condensation of lignin species prevented. This article provides a critical “beginning-to-end” analysis of aspects crucial to the catalyst design to produce lignin biofuels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-488
Number of pages22
Early online date9 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019

Bibliographical note

R.R. acknowledges the financial support provided by the ERC Consolidator Grant LIGNINFIRST (Project Number: 725762). R.R. and A.A.S.C. thank FAPESP for the support provided (Process Number: 2016/50423-3). The authors are grateful to LNLS/CNPEM for the infrastructure (XPD beamline and chemistry laboratory), LNNano for the STEM infrastructure, the GPMMM laboratory (IQ-UNICAMP) for the quantitative FTIR of adsorbed pyridine analysis, CNPq for the PhD scholarship (Process Number: 165106/2014-0), and CAPES for the PDSE scholarship (Process Number: 88881.132245/2016-01). This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001. Finally, the authors are thankful to CBMM for the ammonium niobium oxalate hydrate samples.


  • Biofuel
  • Catalysis
  • Energy Materials


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