Paired electrocatalytic hydrogenation and oxidation of 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural for efficient production of biomass-derived monomers†
Electrochemical conversion of biomass-derived compounds is a promising route for sustainable chemical production. Herein, we report unprecedentedly high efficiency for conversion of 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural (HMF) to biobased monomers by pairing HMF reduction and oxidation half-reactions in one electrochemical cell. Electrocatalytic hydrogenation of HMF to 2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)furan (BHMF) was achieved under mild conditions using carbon-supported Ag nanoparticles (Ag/C) as the cathode catalyst. The competition between Ag-catalyzed HMF hydrogenation to BHMF and undesired HMF hydrodimerization and hydrogen evolution reactions was sensitive to cathode potential. Also, the carbon support material in Ag/C was active for HMF reduction at strongly cathodic potentials, leading to additional hydrodimerization and low BHMF selectivity. Accordingly, precise control of the cathode potential was implemented to achieve high BHMF selectivity and efficiency. In contrast, the selectivity of HMF oxidation facilitated by a homogeneous electrocatalyst, 4-acetamido-TEMPO (ACT, TEMPO = 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl), together with an inexpensive carbon felt electrode, was insensitive to anode potential. Thus, it was feasible to conduct HMF hydrogenation to BHMF and oxidation to 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) in a single divided cell operated under cathode potential control. Electrocatalytic HMF conversion in the paired cell achieved high yields of BHMF and FDCA (85% and 98%, respectively) and a combined electron efficiency of 187%, corresponding to a nearly two-fold enhancement compared to the unpaired cells.