Direct conversion of cellulose to fine chemicals has rarely been achieved. We describe here an eco-benign route for directly converting various cellulose-based biomasses to glycolic acid in a water medium and oxygen atmosphere in which heteromolybdic acids act as multifunctional catalysts to catalyze the hydrolysis of cellulose, the fragmentation of monosaccharides, and the selective oxidation of fragmentation products. With commercial α-cellulose powder as the substrate, the yield of glycolic acid reaches 49.3%. This catalytic system is also effective with raw cellulosic biomass, such as bagasse or hay, as the starting materials, giving rise to remarkable glycolic acid yields of ∼30%. Our heteropoly acid-based catalyst can be recovered in solid form after reaction by distilling out the products and solvent for reuse, and it exhibits consistently high performance in multiple reaction runs. © 2012 American Chemical Society.
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