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Ismaila Mudi, Speaker at Chemistry Conferences
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Title : Catalytic hydrogenation of furfural to 2-methylfuran over Ni/acidified biochar catalyst


Lignocellulosic biomass has the capacity to absorb CO2 during its growth phase, subsequently undergoing pyrolysis to yield three primary products: biochar, syngas, and bio-oil. However, the bio-oil, containing oxygenated organic compounds is not directly viable as fuel and necessitates upgrading via hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) and hydrogenation processes, commonly conducted using a metal catalyst support. In line with circular economy and sustainability principles, the biochar from the pyrolysis stage can serve as an innovative catalyst base, as explored in this study. Enhancing its utility, a Ni/Biochar catalyst was devised by chemically altering biochar with sulfuric acid, augmenting its mesoporous structure and surface area. This modified catalyst exhibited superior mesopores and increased surface area compared to the original Ni/Biochar catalyst, resulting in better dispersion of Ni nanoparticles, thereby enhancing adsorption and catalytic performance. Employed in the liquid-phase hydrogenation of furfural to 2-methylfuran, the sulfuric acid-activated Ni/Biochar catalyst displayed promising performance under varied conditions in a 100 mL Parr reactor. The impact of a mixture of vanillin and furfuralon Ni/acidified biochar catalyst system was also investigated. The presence of different model compounds in this multi-component system affects reaction rates and competition for catalyst active sites. Both hydrogenation and hydrodeoxygenation of furfural and vanillin take place on the catalyst surface. The conversion of both compounds increases with reaction time. Under specific conditions, furfural achieves around 95% conversion in a single model compound system but drops to approximately 51% in the dual system with vanillin. Similarly, vanillin exhibits a 43% conversion in a single experiment, but only about 35% in the dual system with furfural. This decline is due to competitive adsorption for catalyst sites and available hydrogen, reducing the rates of hydrogenation and hydrodeoxygenation. Despite this, furfural conversion remains notably higher than vanillin, likely due to differences in molecular structure and size affecting their diffusion through catalyst pores to reach active sites. Ni/acidified biochar prove to have promising catalytic performance in the Hydrogenation of furfural and in its mixture with vanillin over Ni/acidified biochar catalyst.

Audience Takeaway Notes:

  • Practical Application: Professionals in bioenergy, catalysis, or sustainable fuel production can implement biochar-based catalysts, understanding their role in upgrading bio-oil, and optimizing hydrogenation processes.
  • Enhanced Sustainability: Implementation of biochar-based catalysts aligns with circular economy principles, offering sustainable alternatives for upgrading bio-oil and addressing the challenge of converting oxygenated organic compounds into viable fuel.
  • Research Expansion: Other faculty members in related fields (chemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science) can build upon this research by exploring modifications of biochar or variations in catalyst preparation techniques for diverse applications.
  • Teaching Material: This research can be used as a case study in teaching materials, aiding in illustrating sustainable catalysis principles, multi-component system dynamics, and competitive adsorption effects in catalysis.
  • Potential for Industry Implementation: Implementation of biochar-based catalysts could be a step toward sustainable industrial practices, repurposing biomass waste while reducing reliance on traditional fuel sources.


Ismaila Mudi, a graduate of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, holds a B.Sc. in Applied Chemistry and pursued his Masters in Petroleum Chemistry, completing both in 2011 and 2018, respectively. Following his studies, he ventured into research, serving as a research assistant in Petroleum Chemistry before joining the Chemical Reaction Engineering Group at the University of Birmingham. With a profound interest in his field, Ismaila has contributed significantly, publishing three impactful papers. His academic journey reflects a dedicated pursuit of knowledge in applied and petroleum chemistry, coupled with invaluable research experience in the realms of chemical engineering and academia.