Mesoporous Sn-In-MCM-41 Catalysts for the Selective Sugar Conversion to Methyl Lactate and Comparative Life Cycle Assessment with the Biochemical Process

ACS Sustain Chem Eng. 2022 Mar 7;10(9):2868-2880. doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c04655. Epub 2022 Feb 21.


The use of biomass for the production of energy and higher added value products is a topic of increasing interest in line with growing environmental concerns and circular economy. Mesoporous material Sn-In-MCM-41 was synthesized for the first time and used as a catalyst for the transformation of sugars to methyl lactate (ML). This catalyst was characterized in depth by various techniques and compared with Sn-MCM-41 and In-MCM-41 catalysts. In the new Sn-In-MCM-41 material, both metals, homogeneously distributed throughout the mesoporous structure of MCM-41, actuate in a cooperative way in the different steps of the reaction mechanism. As a result, yields to ML of 69.4 and 73.9% in the transformation of glucose and sucrose were respectively reached. In the case of glucose, the ML yield 1.5 and 2.6 times higher than those of Sn-MCM-41 and In-MCM-41 catalysts, respectively. The Sn-In-MCM-41 catalyst was reused in the transformation of glucose up to four cycles without significant loss of catalytic activity. Finally, life cycle assessment comparison between chemical and biochemical routes to produce ML allowed us to conclude that the use of Sn-In-MCM-41 reduces the environmental impacts compared to Sn-MCM-41. Nevertheless, to make the chemical route comparable to the biochemical one, improvements in the catalyst and ML synthesis have to be achieved.