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Biomass-Derived Isoprene in High Yield

Technology #20170037

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Biomass IsopreneTiresIsoprene
Paul Dauenhauer
Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
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Kechun Zhang
Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
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Larry Micek
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-9568
Patent Protection

Provisional Patent Application Filed
Renewable Isoprene by Sequential Hydrogenation of Itaconic Acid and Dehydra-Decyclization of 3-Methyl-Tetrahydrofuran
ACS Catalysis, January 19, 2017, 7 (2), pp 1428–1431
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Non-confidential Summary [PDF]

Converting 3-methyltetrahydrofuran to Isoprene

A new process uses a novel catalyst to synthesize isoprene in high yields. Isoprene is made by contacting 3-methyltetrahydrofuran (3-MTHF) with a heterogeneous acid catalyst (other than alumina, or Al2O3). This catalytic process dehydrates MTHF to isoprene via several combinations of temperatures, pressures, and space velocities (reactant volumetric flow rate per volume of catalyst) and achieves selectivity of 3-MTHF to isoprene of up to 100%.

Higher Yields, Lower Costs

Isoprene, while traditionally produced from petroleum, can be produced from biomass. However, these production processes suffer from low overall yields or low conversion rates, preventing them from being economically feasible. This new method produces isoprene from a biomass-derived precursor at a high yield. Using a less expensive precursor, it is not only economically viable, but economically competitive with current petroleum processes.


  • Biomass-derived precursor
  • One-step dehydration of MBDO to isoprene
  • High yields (up to 100%)
  • Catalyst technology


  • Isoprene manufacture from biomass
  • Tires
  • Elastomers
  • Adhesives and sealants

Phase of Development - Prototype