Using electrons to add value to levulinic acid

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research coordinates the new TKI project LEVEL, which focusses on the electrochemical conversion of bio-based levulinic acid into high value drop-in & dedicated chemicals.

The development of electrochemical conversion technology and derived new materials within LEVEL is a collaborative effort together with partners in the value chain.

Bio-based levulinic acid

Levulinic acid (or the ester thereof) is a bio-based chemical which can be prepared from biomass, has a high potential usage within the chemical industry and is currently being developed by Dutch-based GFBiochemicals. Since the chemical industry is becoming the biggest driver for the increased global oil consumption and given the (inter)national climate goals, processes based on renewable feedstock are gaining more and more interest as its significantly reduces CO2 emissions.

However, derived dedicated and drop-in chemicals of levulinic acid are slowly emerging. LEVEL (LEvulinic acid Valorisation via ELlectrochemistry) uses the features of electrochemistry such as unique reactions resulting in less conversion steps to produce high value drop-in & dedicated chemicals ultimately aiming to accelerate the market up-take of bio-based levulinic acid.


Biomass derived compounds, like levulinic acid, are well soluble in water due to the polar nature in contrast to their fossil-based counter parts. Together with the transition of the energy sector towards renewable generation of electricity, organic electrosynthesis has re-emerged as sustainable (green) methodology for the production of chemicals. The LEVEL project involves further development of the one-step electrochemical process to drop-in valeric acid, which is based upon recent published findings of Wageningen Food and Biobased Research. Secondly, Kolbe electrolysis of levulinic acid is performed at kilogram-scale followed by the synthesis and characterization of new polymeric materials to identify and develop new high tech applications.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research coordinates the TKI BBEG project LEVEL and cooperates with levulinic acid feedstock supplier GFBiochemicals, specialty chemicals producer Perstorp and electrode supplier Magneto Special Anodes.