Zirconia modified SBA-15 becomes a very active catalyst for the selective hydrolysis of cellobiose to glucose after sulfation. Spectroscopic investigations indicate the presence of Bronsted acid sites with similar properties to those present in conventional sulfated zirconia. Indications are found that the sulfate groups attached to zirconia interact with silanol groups of SBA-15. The catalytic activity in cellobiose hydrolysis correlates well with results for temperature-programmed decomposition of i-propylamine for a range of sulfated ZrO2/SBA-15 catalysts. A glucose yield of 60% during cellobiose hydrolysis at a reaction time of 90 min at 160 degrees C is obtained.