p-Xylene from 2,5-dimethylfuran and acrylic acid using zeolite in a continuous flow system†
The continuous flow synthesis of p-xylene (pXL) via Diels–Alder cycloaddition of lignocellulosic biomass-derivable 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF) and acrylic acid (AA) was performed over different type of zeolites, i.e. Beta, ZSM-5 and Y. Among the tested zeolites, Beta zeolite showed an optimum catalytic performance in pXL synthesis from DMF and AA. In this context, Beta zeolite with a Si/Al molar ratio of 150 which is abbreviated as Beta(150), resulted in complete DMF conversion with a pXL yield of 83% and by-product 2,5-dimethylbenzoic acid (DMBA) with a yield of 17%, at 473 K in 10.1 min residence time (τ), with excess AA (0.7 M). This high catalytic activity is attributed to the high specific surface area of 1180 m2 g−1 with a three-dimensional porous architecture with a pore diameter of 6.6 × 6.7 Å and an acid site density above 40 μmol g−1. The utilized Beta(150) showed a very stable performance up to 10 h time on stream with minor deactivation after 8 h of TOS, while the pXL yield remained above 70%. The original catalytic performance of Beta(150) in the conversion of DMF to pXL was restored by applying a regeneration step for the spent catalyst, which is simple in continuous flow reactors. Finally, this sustainable continuous flow process enables an efficient and selective pXL production from DMF and AA as a dienophile at lower reaction temperature (473 K) and shorter residence time (τ = 10.1 min) in comparison to a batch fashion.