Unlocking biomass energy: continuous high-yield production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural in water†
5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a versatile biomass derivative building block, is recognized as a bridge between biorefinery and petrorefinery for the production of sustainable fuels and chemicals. Despite extensive research, the industrial production of HMF is far from being realized. The design of novel systems for biomass processing should fully consider the properties of feedstocks and products, and only in this way can we realize the efficient and economical utilization of biomass on industrial scales. Here, we break through the limitations of traditional technologies and report a novel strategy with simple operation, high efficiency, and low cost for HMF production. By the simultaneous circulation of a reaction phase and an extraction phase, and the separation of a HMF extraction process from carbohydrate dehydration conditions, carbohydrates could be continuously and stably dehydrated to HMF in high yields. Over 94 mol% yield of HMF was obtained from fructose and nearly 70 mol% was obtained from glucose, both of which were significantly higher than all reported data obtained in water. Techno-economic analysis demonstrated that HMF could be produced at a minimum selling price of $1716 per ton and $1215 per ton from fructose and glucose, respectively, which brings hope and motivation for the commercial production of HMF.