Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis



Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSChE)


Chemical Engineering


Thomas J. Schwartz

Second Committee Member

Sampath R. Gunukula

Third Committee Member

M. Clayton Wheeler


Medication costs in the U.S. are high, and manufacturing and production comprise the largest share of those costs. As the world continues to shift to more sustainable methods of production, there are opportunities to reduce these costs through green synthesis. A large number of pharmaceuticals are derived from a precursor (S-3-hydroxy-gamma-butyrolactone ‘HBL’). Drugs that treat cancer, antivirals, antibacterial drugs, and some cholesterol medications all can be derived from HBL. Currently, HBL is almost exclusively derived from petroleum through an expensive and resource intensive process. Until recently, ‘green’ efforts to derive HBL from biomass have been plagued with many of the same inefficiencies as with the petroleum processes. The research outlined here takes a different approach. Through a series of two enzyme-catalyzed reactions we are able to synthesize a unique chemical intermediate, trione, from biomass-derived glucose. This trione, through an additional series of base and acid-catalyzed reactions, can then be converted into our target chemical HBL. Having proven the concept, continued research focused on the extraction of the target molecule from the acidic aqueous solution into an organic solvent. This organic solution is subsequently distilled to obtain pure HBL. Economic analysis of this process has been conducted and due to the low-cost feedstock, the enantiomeric selectivity, and the ease of extraction, costs for production at industrial scale are anticipated to be less than fifty percent of what is presently commercially available.

Available for download on Friday, August 09, 2024