Kevin Barnett, Ph.D.
Kevin Barnett is co-founder of Pyran, a company focused on the production of 1,5-pentanediol from renewable sources. Kevin recently completed his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he developed Pyran’s technology under the supervision of Professor George Huber.
A New Catalytic Pathway to Bio-Based 1,5-Pentanediol
Chemicals derived from renewable biomass feedstocks show great potential as a replacement to petroleum-derived chemicals due to the highly oxygenated character of lignocellulosic biomass. By employing heterogeneous catalysis, we can selectively remove oxygen and effectively manipulate reaction pathways to make a suite of useful chemicals from biomass in an economical matter. One such chemical is 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO), which is primarily used as a monomer for production of polyurethanes, polyester polyols and polycarbonate polyols. We have developed an alternative pathway for producing 1,5-PDO from biomass-derived furfural. In this three-step pathway, 1,5-PDO is produced via vapor-phase dehydration of THFA to dihydropyran (DHP), Hydration of DHP to 2-hydroxytetrahydropyran (2-HY-THP) in water, and hydrogenation of the ring-opened tautomer of 2-HY-THP, 5-hydroxyvaleraldehyde (5-HVal), to 1,5-PDO. A technoeconomic analysis shows that the novel pathway presented herein has a 6.6x lower production cost as compared to the alternate direct hydrogenolysis route from THFA to 1,5-PDO, including a 51x decrease in catalyst cost, opening the doors for the economical implementation of 1,5-PDO for new and improved CASE formulations.