A continuous flow process for the production of 2,5-dimethylfuran from fructose using (non-noble metal based) heterogeneous catalysis†
The abundant carbohydrate fructose is converted into two biofuel molecules, namely 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF) and ethyl levulinate (EL) in a simple cascade flow reactor. With an overall yield of 85% (38.5% of 2,5-dimethylfuran and 47% of ethyl levulinate), the main remainder is unconverted fructose. The two column flow reactor set-up enables the adjustment of temperatures and reaction times in such a way that the reactive intermediate hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) is generated in optimal yields and converted into the stable DMF immediately. The process is so simple and fast (<20 min) that economic and sustainable production of these fuels and platform chemicals can be envisioned. A remaining minor char formation is regarded to be the major problem which has to be addressed by catalyst development.