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Experimental and modelling studies on the synthesis of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural from sugars

PhD ceremony:Mr R. van Putten
When:January 16, 2015
Start:16:15
Supervisor:prof. dr. ir. H.J. (Hero Jan) Heeres
Co-supervisors:Prof. J.C. van der Waal, Prof. E. de jong
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Science and Engineering
Experimental and modelling studies on the synthesis of
5-hydroxymethylfurfural from sugars

Fossil resources play a key role in our society and have been for the last 100 years. For a number of applications, sustainable alternatives are required. When it comes to the production of materials and fuels, the successful conversion of biomass to chemical building blocks is of the utmost importance.

One of the most promising compounds in this category is 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), formed through acid-catalyzed dehydration of sugars. This molecule has a number of high-potential applications. The production of this molecule is not straight-forward, as its chemical and physical properties present a number of challenges. More fundamental knowledge about the acid-catalyzed dehydration of sugars to HMF is thus required. It was the target of the research presented this thesis to gain more fundamental knowledge on HMF formation.

Different ketose (i.e. fructose) and aldose (i.e. glucose) were tested to (i) obtain more fundamental knowledge of the reaction mechanisms involved and (ii) to find the most suitable sugar to convert to HMF. The research presented in this thesis indicates that the dehydration of sugars to HMF takes place through cyclic intermediates, which has implications for the conversion of aldose sugars, such as glucose, since they require isomerisation to ketoses before dehydration. It was also found that psicose is the most suitable sugar to convert to HMF and that methanol is a more suitable solvent than water.