Printer Friendly

Sweet synthesis: fructose product could replace chemicals from oil.

The production of many chemicals starts with petroleum, but as worldwide oil supplies wane, scientists are looking for renewable building blocks. A Wisconsin team describes the efficient use of fructose toward making one starting material. The strategy could lead to sugar-based polyesters and other products.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has identified 12 high-value chemicals that can be made from sugars. On the list is furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), which the agency pegs as a possible replacement for terephthalic acid, a petrochemical found in polyesters.

One pathway to FDCA contains hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a fructose product. Previous HMF-synthesis routes, however, were plagued by either energy-intensive separation steps or low yields, both of which would make for high production costs, says James A. Dumesic, a chemical engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We tried to tweak the process," he says, to "combine good yield with easy separation."

Dumesic and his colleagues put fructose and an acidic catalyst in a continually stirred mix of water and the solvent called methylisobutylketone. After the conversion, they stopped stirring, and the water and organic solvent separated into two layers, as oil and vinegar do.

The water at the bottom retained the catalyst and any remaining fructose, while the organic solvent held the HMF, which could then be easily isolated by evaporation, Dumesic says.

The group found that spiking the organic solvent with the alcohol 2-butanol "more efficiently pulls HMF up to the organic layer where you want it to be," Dumesic adds.

This and other adjustments improved the reaction's yield. At its best, the technique converted 80 percent of the fructose to HMF and made only 10 percent of the sugar into by-products. The team describes its procedures in the June 30 Science.

Chemicals made from renewable materials have the potential to become new and useful molecules, according to the DOE. Sugar-inspired chemistry could form the basis for a biorefinery--the renewable equivalent of a petrochemical refine--that could turn HMF and other key' chemicals into any of thousands of different products.

"When you look at the literature for converting renewables into chemicals, HMF always shows up as one of the usual suspects," says Joseph J. Bozell, an organic chemist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "But no one has been able to produce it in a high yield that you could isolate easily."

Dumesic's system, he says, "may be a first step in that path."
COPYRIGHT 2006 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:This Week
Author:Cunningham, A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:398
Previous Article:Planet-making disk has a banana split.
Next Article:Lavender revolution: plant essences linked to enlarged breasts in boys.
Topics:


Related Articles
The fructose connection: copper and heart disease.
Fructose risk for high-fat diners?
Sweet news on hunger suppression....
Cancer clues. (Quick Studies).
Bouncing back nutritionally from an intense workout or game. (Powerline 2003).
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World.
Use bacteria to make a sweet, minty compound.
Create a sweet, minty compound from bacteria.
A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters