The development of precious-metal-free catalysts to promote the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals from biomass remains an important and challenging target. Here, we report the efficient hydrogenolysis of biomass-derived 5-hydroxymethylfurfural to 2,5-dimethylfuran over a unique core-shell structured catalyst Co@CoO that affords the highest productivity among all catalysts reported to date. Surprisingly, we found that the catalytically active sites reside on the shell of CoO with oxygen vacancies rather than the metallic Co. The combination of various spectroscopic experiments and computational modelling reveals that the CoO shell incorporating oxygen vacancies drives the heterolytic and homolytic cleavage of dihydrogen to yield active Hδ- species, resulting in the exceptional catalytic activity. Co@CoO also exhibits excellent activity toward the direct hydrodeoxygenation of lignin model compounds. This study unlocks, for the first time, the potential of metal-oxide catalysts for the production of renewable biomass-derived fuels.
Supplementary Methods Supplementary Figure 1 Supplementary Figure 2 Supplementary Figure 3 Supplementary Figure 4 Supplementary Figure 5 Supplementary Figure 6 Supplementary Figure 7 Supplementary Figure 8 Supplementary Figure 9 Supplementary Figure 10 Supplementary Table 1 Supplementary Table 2 Supplementary Table 3 . Supplementary References