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Tunable Multi‐Phase System for Highly Chemo‐Selective Oxidation of Hydroxymethyl‐Furfural

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Through different layers: An innovative multiphase (MP) procedure based on immiscible solvents is described for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl-furfural (HMF). By tuning the composition of the MP system and the reaction parameters, the protocol turned out excellent to control the reaction selectivity from partial to deep oxidation of both alcohol and carbonyl functions of HMF, and to an in situ recycle of the catalyst in a semicontinuous mode.


Three different multiphase systems (MP 1–3) comprised of two immiscible liquids, with or without an ionic liquid (IL: methyltrioctyl ammonium chloride), were investigated for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl-furfural (HMF) over 5 % Ru/C as a catalyst and air (8 bar) as an oxidant. These conditions proved versatile for an excellent control of the reaction selectivity to 4 distinct products derived from full or partial oxidation of the carbonyl and alcohol functions of HMF, and each one achieved in 87–96 % isolated yield at complete conversion. MP1 based on water and isooctane, yielded 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA, 91 % yield). In MP2, obtained by adding the IL to MP1, the oxidation proceeded towards the formation of 5-formyl-2-furancarboxylic acid (FFCA, 87–89 % yield). MP2 also proved successful in the design of a one pot–two step oxidation/reduction sequence to prepare 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furancarboxylic acid (HMFCA, 85 % yield). In MP3, the use of an acetonitrile/cyclooctane biphase yielded 2,5-diformylfuran (DFF, 96 % yield). All the multiphase systems MP 1–3 allowed a perfect segregation of the catalyst in a single phase (either the hydrocarbon or the IL) distinct from the one containing HMF and its oxidation products. This was crucial not only for the catalyst/product separation but also for the recycle of Ru/C that was possible under all the tested conditions. Accordingly, MP-reaction were run in a semicontinuous mode without removing the catalyst from the reactor nor resorting to conventional separation and activation techniques. Negligible Ru leaching, less than 0.96 ppb, was measured in all cases.

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