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A microwave-assisted process for the in-situ production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and furfural from lignocellulosic polysaccharides in a biphasic reaction system

Sweygers, Nick, Harrer, Johannes, Dewil, Raf, Appels, Lise
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.187 pp. 1014-1024
Phyllostachys, bamboos, biomass, cellulose, feedstocks, furfural, hydrochloric acid, hydroxymethylfurfural, lignocellulose, microwave treatment, models, rehydration, temperature, xylan
In this study, a biphasic reaction system was developed for the microwave-assisted production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural. The proposed biphasic reaction system is a possible solution in the transition of current industrially state-of-the-art technologies which use C6 carbohydrates to an industrial process where lignocellulosic biomass can be processed, thus being a true sustainable process. In this respect, cellulose and xylan were chosen as model compounds since they are considered as the major building blocks of lignocellulosic polysaccharides. The reaction system consisted of an acidified aqueous phase and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) as the organic phase. Upon the formation of HMF and furfural in the water phase, an instantaneous extraction into MIBK took place. The proposed biphasic reaction system offers many advantages over a monophasic reaction system, including (i) upon formation, furfural and HMF are continuously extracted into the MIBK layer, leading to the suppression of unwanted rehydration reactions, (ii) no unwanted solid particles are formed, and (iii) HMF and furfural can more easily be recovered from the reaction mixture. The goal of this study was to develop the microwave-assisted process in such a way that both cellulose and xylan were simultaneously converted. To this end, optimum process parameters in terms of HCl concentration (cHCl), temperature (T) and reaction time (t) were determined. A maximum HMF yield of 33.65 ± 0.46 w% (or 43.27 mol%) and a maximal furfural yield of 33.30 ± 1.30 w% (or 45.79 mol%) were achieved. To validate the proposed biphasic system, bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) was applied as a lignocellulosic feedstock, which resulted in a HMF yield of 42.44 mol% and a furfural yield of 48.90 mol%, based upon the cellulose and hemicellulose fraction of the bamboo particles. Since similar yields are observed compared to the model compounds, it is concluded that the lignocellulosic structure does not influence the reaction pathway. This means that the proposed biphasic system can be generalized for a wide variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks.