Honors Program

Honors in Chemistry

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Dane W. Scott

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Reza M. Mohseni, Paul Tudico


In recent years, there has been increasing concern with respect to the large dependence across the globe on nonrenewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels. Ethanol has been explored, however, in alleviating this problem; cellulose, a polymer of glucose molecules, is a precursor to this potentially useful biofuel. However, the strength and rigidity of the cellulose structure has proven to be a difficult obstacle to overcome in this multistep synthesis. Harsh conditions are required, often including concentrated sulfuric acid and extremely high temperatures, to complete hydrolysis to a useful extent. In this work, the hydrolysis of cellulose was performed with acidic hydrogen molybdenum bronze in the form of XPell R by Xplosafe in place of sulfuric acid. By analyzing total organic carbon present in hydrolyzed samples (after 2 hours) using persulfate oxidation and colorimetric measurements, results were obtained showing that hydrogen molybdenum bronze is successful in catalyzing the hydrolysis of cellulose in comparison to hydrolysis completed in water alone. The values that were obtained in this analysis are as follows: 160 ± 20 ppt/mol at 40 °C, 180 ± 20 ppt/mol at 60 °C, 180 ± 30 ppt/mol at 80 °C, and 280 ± 40 ppt/mol at 100 °C. This determination shows that the catalytic ability of this acid increases with increasing temperature. Hydrogen molybdenum bronze is a useful candidate to explore in biofuel synthesis from cellulose. Comparison to sulfuric acid will be completed in future tests. This method is currently being used to pursue conversion of hydrolyzed cellulose to ethanol using yeast.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

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