Green synthesis of gamma-valerolactone (GVL) through hydrogenation of biomass-derived levulinic acid using non-noble metal catalysts: A critical review

Shanta Dutta, Iris K.M. Yu, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Yun Hau Ng, Yong Sik Ok, James Sherwood, James H. Clark

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


The distinct physicochemical properties and renewable origin of gamma-valerolactone (GVL) have provided opportunities for diversifying its applications, particularly as a green solvent, excellent fuel additive, and precursor to valuable chemicals. Among the related publications found in the SCOPUS database (≈172 in the last 10 years), we focused our effort to review the conversion of levulinic acid (LA) to GVL over non-noble metal catalysts and the corresponding mechanisms (≈30 publications) as well as the applications of GVL as a solvent, fuel additive, and platform chemical (≈30 publications) mostly in the last five years (some preceding publications have also been included due to their relevance and importance in the field). The use of non-noble metals (e.g., Cu and Zr) presents a greener route of GVL synthesis than the conventional practice employing noble metals (e.g., Pd and Ru), in view of their higher abundance and milder reaction conditions needed (e.g., low pressure and temperature without H2 involved). The significance of the catalyst characteristics in promoting catalytic transfer hydrogenation of LA to GVL is critically discussed. Structural features and acid-base properties are found to influence the activity and selectivity of catalysts. Furthermore, metal leaching in the presence of water in catalytic systems is an important issue, resulting in catalyst deactivation. Various endeavors for developing catalysts using well-dispersed metal particles along with a combination of Lewis acid and base sites are suggested for efficiently synthesizing GVL from LA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1006
Number of pages15
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2019


  • Catalytic transfer hydrogenation
  • Green solvent
  • Lewis acid
  • Sustainable biorefinery
  • Waste valorization/recycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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