HMF and its 2,5-disubstituted furan derivatives can replace key petroleum-based building blocks, and there are several known catalysts that are active in the dehydration of sugars to form HMF.
However, most of them also produce side reactions that form undesired byproducts, and rehydrate HMF to form acid. Therefore, the use of these catalysts has often been constrained to simple sugar feedstock such as fructose. They have not been able to efficiently convert glucose, a more abundant and stable sugar source.
With IMSs as the starting point, IBN researchers developed NHC-metal complexes as catalysts to transform sugars into HMF. These offer a great deal of flexibility as the catalytic activity may be modified by changing specific properties of the NHC. The researchers were able to extract HMF easily as the sole product. IBN's new catalyst achieved the highest reported yields of HMF so far, for both fructose and glucose feedstocks.
Dr. Zhang said, "Our HMF yields were as high as 96% for fructose and 81% for glucose. As both the catalyst and the ionic liquid can be recycled, our technology is more environmentally friendly and would potentially lead to cost savings in the biofuel manufacturing process."
IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying added, "We are excited by the tremendous potential of these novel compounds to make an impact on medicine and alternative energy. Our discovery paves the way for more effective treatment of various degenerative diseases, as well as the conversion of biofuels, helping to alleviate some of the pressing concerns facing our global community."
|Contact: Cathy Yarbrough|
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore