AbstractThe hydrothermal conversion of waste biomass to levulinic acid was investigated in the presence of homogeneous acid catalysts. Different cheap raw materials (poplar sawdust, paper mill sludge, tobacco chops, wheat straw, olive tree pruning) were employed as substrates. The yields of levulinic acid were improved by optimization of the main reaction parameters, such as type and amount of acid catalyst, temperature, duration, biomass concentration, and electrolyte addition. The catalytic performances were also improved by the adoption of microwave irradiation as an efficient heating method, allowing significant energy and time savings. The hydrothermal conversions of inulin and wheat straw were carried out in the presence of niobium phosphate, which up to now have never been employed in these reactions. The preliminary results appeared to be in need of further optimization.