“These results represent a significant advance over the current state of the art, overcoming an inherent limitation of the oxidation of HMF to an important monomer for bio-polymer production.”
Researchers based at Japan-based Hokkaido University and Netherlands-based Eindhoven University of Technology have discovered a method to synthesise furan-2.5 dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) in a high yield from a glucose derivative of non-food plant cellulose. In a statement, the team said that this new discovery will help it to pave the way to replace petroleum-derived terephthalic acid with bio-materials in plastic bottle applications.
The chemical industry is under pressure to establish energy-efficient chemical procedures that do not generate by-products, and using renewable resources wherever possible. Scientists believe that if resources from non-food plants can be used without putting a burden on the environment, it will help sustain existing social systems.
The study was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition and led by Associate Professor Kiyotaka Nakajima at Hokkaido University and Professor Emiel J.M. Hensen at Eindhoven University of Technology. It was also conducted jointly with Japanese chemicals company Mitsubishi Chemical.
According to the team, it succeeded in producing FDCA with high yields from concentrated HMF solutions without the formation of by-products.
Specifically, they first acetalized HMF with 1.3-propanediol to protect by-product-inducing formyl groups and then oxidised HMF-acetal with a supported Au catalyst.
Around 80% of 1.3-propanediol used to protect formyl groups can be reused for the subsequent reactions. In addition, drastic improvement in the substrate concentration reduces the amount of solvents used in the production process.
Nakajima said: “It is significant that our method can reduce the total energy consumption required for complex work-up processes to isolate the reaction product.
“These results represent a significant advance over the current state of the art, overcoming an inherent limitation of the oxidation of HMF to an important monomer for bio-polymer production. Controlling the reactivity of formyl group could open the door for the production of commodity chemicals from sugar-based bio-materials.”