Production of platform molecules from sweet sorghum†
This study proves that the non-food dedicated sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) can be a possible source and/or raw material of platform molecules such as levulinic acid (LA) and 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde (5-HMF). The high sugar-containing juice derived from sweet sorghum can be efficiently converted to LA and 5-HMF by using microwave dielectric heating. Centrifugal separation was proposed as a first step of the technology to remove the insoluble materials (fibers, starch, and sand) to obtain high sugar containing feedstock for acid-catalyzed dehydration. The effects of pretreatment by centrifugal separation and reaction conditions (irradiation time, acid concentration and reaction temperature) on the formation of levulinic acid were studied. The conversions were monitored by in situ NMR spectroscopy. It was shown that maximum yield (31.4%) of LA was achieved in the presence of 2 M sulfuric acid by applying 30 min irradiation at 160 °C to the sorghum sample treated for 20 min in a centrifuge at a rotational force of 5870. It was also revealed that 5-HMF can be produced from the sweet sorghum juice in the presence of 0.05 M sulfuric acid at 120 °C.