UK Catalysis Hub


Preventing catalyst deactivation during the continuous conversion of sugars to chemicals

Dr Ceri Hammond (Cardiff)

The production of chemicals from renewable resources represents a focal point of contemporary chemical research. Unlike petroleum feedstock, the highly oxygenated nature of sugar-based feedstock necessitates processing in the liquid phase. Unfortunately, the addition of a solvent, along with the chelating nature of the substrates in solution, can dramatically impact the stability of solid catalysts, particularly when high pressures and temperatures are required for sufficient levels of performance to be achieved. As such, despite the surge of interest in catalytic sugar upgrading, the development of robust catalytic materials capable of continuous operation has not yet been achieved. As such, study and optimization of the stability of various catalysts under true operational conditions is an essential challenge.1

During this presentation, we will highlight some of our team’s recent research focused upon overcoming the deactivation of zeolite Sn-β during the continuous conversion of renewables. Specifically, the conversion of glucose to fructose, and the conversion of hexoses to alkyl lactates, will be discussed.2,3 In addition to highlighting the various mechanisms of deactivation present in each of these systems, strategies to overcome these processes – including novel material design and process optimisation – will be highlighted.4,5 Along with demonstrating improved levels of catalyst stability, we also show how the combination of catalyst design and reaction engineering results in space-time yield improvements of over 2 orders of magnitude in each of these systems. The consequences of these findings, particularly with respect potential intensification of these systems, are also considered.


  1. Hammond, Green Chem. 19 (2017) 2711;
  2. Padovan et al., Green Chem. 18 (2016) 5041;
  3. Padovan et al., React. Chem. Eng. (2018) Accepted article;
  4. Al-Nayili et al., J. Mat. Chem. A. 4 (2016) 1373;
  5. Yakabi et al., ChemSusChem 10 (2017) 3652.