Furfural production from xylose in a bi-phasic set-up

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In recent years we have witnessed much activity to upgrade sugars contained in side-streams from the pulp and paper industry into ethanol and other value-added chemicals. An interesting catalytic route, namely the dehydration of sugars to furans, is considered one of the most promising routes for the production of platform chemicals and fuels. Furans such as furfural are highlighted in the “Top 10 + 4” by the United States Department of Energy list as the most rewarding bio-based platform molecules1. The current furfural production uses mineral acids at approx. 200 °C, providing around 50 mol% yield. These mineral acids possess several drawbacks, e.g., high toxicity, corrosiveness, difficult recovery and large salt waste after work-up. The purpose of this study is to replace compare two organic solvents to improve the selectivity to furfural and avoid its decomposition. This approach may offer several advantages over current processes in the conversion of pentosan derivatives e.g. xylose into furfural: high yields and facile extraction.

In the present study, two organic solvents have been compared: 2-Methyltetrahydrofuran (2-MTHF) and Isophorone. 2-MTHF shows a better selectivity to furfural and the highest yield (82%) was obtained at 190 °C in 3 hours. Besides, this bi-phasic system performs better than aqueous systems and un-catalyzed reaction, as this study demonstrates.

The results of this work could be used to produce platform chemicals from sugar-based side-streams in the forestry industry, in particular from the pre-hydrolysate liquor generated during dissolving pulp production. These obtained value-added products have applications in a wide range of industrial branches (biofuel, pharmaceutical, agrochemical, petrochemical and chemical industry, among others).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017
EventMarcus Wallenberg: Young Researchers' Program - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 24 Oct 201727 Oct 2017


ConferenceMarcus Wallenberg
Internet address


  • furfural
  • 2-MTHF
  • Isophorone
  • xylose
  • cpme

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