Solvent system for effective near-term production of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) with potential for long-term process improvement
Production of renewable chemicals to mitigate the deleterious effects of greenhouse gas emissions requires technologies that are cost-competitive with the fossil-fuel industry, require low capital investment, and produce high-value products. We report production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a valuable platform molecule from biomass-derived carbohydrates at high yields (>90%) and with excellent carbon balance (>95%) using an inexpensive solvent system composed of acetone and water. We demonstrate that HMF, a thermally unstable molecule, can be separated from this low boiling solvent system with high recovery (96%) and purity (∼99%). We show that fructose is selectively dehydrated in this solvent system from a mixture of glucose and fructose, a property that can be leveraged to integrate the proposed process with current processes for the production of high fructose corn syrup. Techno-economic analysis indicates that utilizing fructose as feedstock leads to low investment (16 MM$) and produces HMF at a minimum selling price (MSP) of $1710 per ton. The MSP can be further reduced to $1460 per ton by changing the feedstock to glucose.