(730c) Etherification of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural Using Zeolite Catalysts

Authors: 
Schwartz, T. J., University of Maine
Frederick, B. G., University of Maine
Allen, M., University of Maine
Martell, S., University of Maine
Mahdavi Shakib, A., University of Maine
Gramlich, W. M., University of Maine
Biomass is a promising feedstock for the production of modern chemicals. In this regard, polymers represent an attractive class of potential biobased materials, and it may be possible to synthesize a variety of polymeric materials starting from 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). In this study, we show that H-BEA zeolite is highly active and selective for the production of a variety of HMF ethers which would be suitable for subsequent polymerization.

Several catalysts were evaluated for their etherification activity, including: H-BEA and H-ZSM-5 zeolites, Amberlyst-15 (A-15), and γ-Al2O3. These catalysts were chosen to evaluate a variety of active sites and pore structures. Catalysts possessing Brønsted acid sites (i.e., H-ZSM-5 and H-BEA zeolites, and A-15) showed the highest selectivities to the ether product, with H-BEA achieving nearly quantitative selectivity. We hypothesize that the improved selectivity observed for H-BEA, compared with A-15, is due to confinement effects that inhibit both levulinate formation and biomolecular condensation (i.e., resinification) reactions.

The rate of etherification is nearly constant for the series of ethanol, n-butanol, cyclohexanol, and phenol. Moreover, while the etherification rate saturates at high HMF concentrations, there is little variation in the rate across for alcohol concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 10 mol L-1. These kinetics data, coupled with the invariance of the rate with varying alcohol data, suggest that the reaction proceeds through an oxocarbenium ion transition state that does not involve the etherifying alcohol.