THESIS BY Marie Guehl*

The ecological transition requires the development of new industrial processes making use of renewable resources.

Among them, sugars from lignocellulosic biomass can produce derivated products with high added value. Exploiting this rich resource with its multiple chemical functions means coming up with innovative concepts that are radically different from processes aimed at oil and gas.

Biological – especially enzymatic – catalysis is particularly suitable for converting sugars from biomass, with a very high selectivity, in aqueous medium. However, it presents a number of difficulties, hence the need of a cofactora to activate the enzyme, which is expensive to produce and regenerate, by using a second enzymatic step.

An original approach has been adopted to overcome this obstacle: hybrid catalysis, combining the selectivity of enzymes and the robustness of chemical catalysts. This combination draws on the respective advantages of both types of catalysis to produce “platform molecules”, which are difficult to obtain using other methods, in a highly selective manner(1).

IFPEN therefore worked with the UCCSb at the University of Lille 1 on converting sorbitol into fructose, a synthon of choice to obtain products with a high added value.

This research demonstrated the possibility to combine an enzyme, called alcohol deshydrogenase (ADH), and an organometallic chemical catalyst, capable of regenerating the cofactor in situ (figure).


Catalyse hybride appliquée à la transformation enzymatique du sorbitol en fructose avec la régénération du cofacteur nicotinamide.
Hybrid catalysis applied to the enzymatic conversion
of sorbitol into fructose with regeneration of the
nicotinamide cofactor.

The research focused on:

  • the cohabitation of enzymatic and chemical catalysis,
  • and the identification of the optimal operating conditions of the overall system(2).

This initial proof of concept paves the way for new developments for biomass conversion processes.


a- A chemical compound that does not contain any proteins but is necessary for the biological activity of a protein.
b- Unité de catalyse et chimie du solide (Solids Catalysis and Chemistry Unit).

Thesis entitled“New hybrid catalysis concept for biomass conversion”.

(1) A. Gimbernat, M. Guehl, M. Capron, N. Lopes Ferreira, R. Froidevaux, J-S. Girardon, P. Dhulster, D. Delcroix, F. Dumeignil, ChemCatChem, 2017, 9, 2080-2084.

(2) Patent FR3031983(A1)


Scientific contacts: damien.delcroix@ifpen.fr - nicolas.lopes-ferreira@ifpen.fr