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Press Release

Press Release

Doctoral Thesis on The Production of γ-valerolactone, a Green Platform Molecule

Jose Delgado Liriano.
Jose Delgado Liriano.

M.Sc. (Tech.) Jose Delgado Liriano’s doctoral thesis in Chemical and Process Engineering will be put forth for public defence at The Faculty of Science and Engineering at Åbo Akademi University.

The thesis is entitled Production of γ-valerolactone, a green platform molecule.

The public defence of the doctoral thesis takes place on Wednesday 28 June at 1 PM, in auditorium Argentum, Aurum, Henrikinkatu 2, Turku. You can also follow the defence online. Professor Pascal Fongarland, Unversité Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France and Research Director Laurent Falk, Université de Lorraine, France will serve as opponents and Professor Henrik Grénman, Åbo Akademi University, as custos.



The industrial transition requires that energy and materials are produced from renewable resources. Biomass, such as forestry residues and agricultural waste, are valuable raw materials for the production of e.g. biofuels, materials and chemical products. 

Biomass is a source of versatile chemical compounds, some of which are considered platform molecules that are particularly suitable for further processing into products with high added value. The platform molecule γ-valerolactone (GVL) can be used as a non-toxic non-polar solvent with good physical and chemical properties and to produce, for example, fuel additives.  

This PhD thesis focuses on studying methods for the efficient production of γ-valerolactone from alkyllevulinates, which can be obtained from the sugar molecules in biomass hemicellulose and cellulose, from a kinetic and thermodynamic perspective. 

The reaction occurs in two steps by catalytic hydrogenation of alkyl levulinates and an intramolecular ring closure to form GVL. A solid Ru/C catalyst was used to carry out the hydrogenation reaction with molecular hydrogen and an acid catalyst Amberlite IR120 was used to accelerate the ring closure reaction. It was observed that the ring closure was slower compared to the hydrogenation, which limited the GVL yield. A mathematical model for the reaction kinetics, which considers both reaction steps, was obtained by Bayesian inference. A cross-validation method, the K-fold method, was used to evaluate the extrapolation ability of the models. 

The enthalpy of reaction is important in thermal risk assessment because it is essential to assess the consequences of an accident. The reaction enthalpy was determined for both reaction steps for five n-alkyl levulinates (from methyl to pentyl levulinate) in different reaction conditions using batch calorimeters. 


The doctoral thesis and M.Sc. (Tech.) Delgado Liriano’s international double degree is a collaboration between Åbo Akademi University and l’Institute National des Sciences Appliquées de Rouen Normandie (INSA Rouen), France, and it contributes to a better understanding of more efficient production of γ-valerolactone, a green platform molecule.   

Professor Sébastien Leveneur, INSA Rouen and Professor Henrik Grénman, Åbo Akademi University have served as M.Sc. (Tech.) Delgado Liriano’s supervisors. 



Jose Emilio Delgado Liriano was born in 1989 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He can be reached by phone +33 7 6656 9006 or email josedelgadoinq@gmail.com. 

The doctoral thesis can be read online through the Doria publication archive.  

Click here for a press photo of the doctoral student.   


Instructions on how to follow the doctoral defence remotely

To follow the defence, you need the Zoom software or the Google Chrome browser. You do not need to create a Zoom account to follow the defence. If you install the application, you participate by clicking on the meeting link, after which you should allow the link to open in the Zoom app.