Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSChE)

Degree Level



Chemical Engineering


Jerry W. King

Committee Member

Edgar C. Clausen

Second Committee Member

Jerry A. Havens


A bio-refinery is a facility that converts renewable bio-resources into value-added chemicals and products. In this context of a bio-refinery, the production of the carbochemicals such as HMF, furfural and organic acids illustrate that multiple products can be produced from a renewable source such as lignocellulosic biomass (switchgrass). Traditionally, carbochemicals such as furfural and HMF are produced using inorganic acids such as H2SO4, HCL, and H3PO4. The use of such acids requires the application of high cost materials of construction such as Hastelloy-C, titanium etc.

The objective of this study is to develop a semi-continuous process for the conversion of switchgrass to carbochemicals such as HMF, furfural and organic acids. Moreover, the application of water as a green reaction medium and the utilization of carbonated water as a "green catalyst" were studied in this research. For the purpose of this study, we constructed a semi-continuous flow apparatus using three high precision Isco syringe pumps and a constant temperature oven to allow carbonation of the water over a range of temperatures and pressure to reactively pretreat switchgrass. Carbochemicals (furan-based aldehydes) and acids that were formed were detected using a Waters HPLC employing a Bio-Rad Aminex HPX-87H column with a PDA (photo diode array) detector at wavelengths range of 210 and 280nm. Oligosaccharides were detected using Dionex HPLC employing Bio-Rad Aminex HPX-87P column using a Shodex RI-101 refractive index detector. The kinetics of the formation and degradation of HMF and furfural were studied using the solver function in Microsoft Excel. Carbonated water clearly showed catalytic activity by increasing the yields of the HMF and furfural at temperatures of 220, 250 and 280°C. The highest catalytic activity was observed for HMF formation in carbonated water with a nine-fold increase in yields over that using neat subcritical water.