Renewable production of phthalic anhydride from biomass-derived furan and maleic anhydride†
A route to renewable phthalic anhydride (2-benzofuran-1,3-dione) from biomass-derived furan and maleic anhydride (furan-2,5-dione) is investigated. Furan and maleic anhydride were converted to phthalic anhydride in two reaction steps: Diels–Alder cycloaddition followed by dehydration. Excellent yields for the Diels–Alder reaction between furan and maleic-anhydride were obtained at room temperature and solvent-free conditions (SFC) yielding 96% exo-4,10-dioxa-tricyclo[22.214.171.124]dec-8-ene-3,5-dione (oxanorbornene dicarboxylic anhydride) after 4 h of reaction. It is shown that this reaction is resistant to thermal runaway because of its reversibility and exothermicity. The dehydration of the oxanorbornene was investigated using mixed-sulfonic carboxylic anhydrides in methanesulfonic acid (MSA). An 80% selectivity to phthalic anhydride (87% selectivity to phthalic anhydride and phthalic acid) was obtained after running the reaction for 2 h at 298 K to form a stable intermediate followed by 4 h at 353 K to drive the reaction to completion. The structure of the intermediate was determined. This result is much better than the 11% selectivity obtained in neat MSA using similar reaction conditions.