Described is a method to make liquid chemicals, such as functional intermediates, solvents, and liquid fuels from biomass-derived cellulose. The method is cascading; the product stream from an upstream reaction can be used as the feedstock in the next downstream reaction. The method includes the steps of deconstructing cellulose to yield a product mixture comprising levulinic acid and formic acid, converting the levulinic acid to .gamma.-valerolactone, and converting the .gamma.-valerolactone to pentanoic acid. Alternatively, the .gamma.-valerolactone can be converted to a mixture of n-butenes. The pentanoic acid so formed can be further reacted to yield a host of valuable products. For example, the pentanoic acid can be decarboxylated yield 1-butene or ketonized to yield 5-nonanone. The 5-nonanone can be hydrodeoxygenated to yield nonane, or 5-nonanone can be reduced to yield 5-nonanol. The 5-nonanol can be dehydrated to yield nonene, which can be dimerized to yield a mixture of C.sub.9 and C.sub.18 olefins, which can be hydrogenated to yield a mixture of alkanes. Alternatively, the nonene may be isomerized to yield a mixture of branched olefins, which can be hydrogenated to yield a mixture of branched alkanes. The mixture of n-butenes formed from .gamma.-valerolactone can also be subjected to isomerization and oligomerization to yield olefins in the gasoline, jet and Diesel fuel ranges.
This invention was made with United States government support awarded by the following agency: U.S. Department of Energy, Grant Number DE-FG02-03ER15468. The United States government has certain rights in this invention.