Kinetic and Mechanistic Study of Aldose Conversion to Functionalized Furans in Aqueous Solutions

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Reaction mixtures of naturally abundant aldoses and CH nucleophiles allow for the formation of functionalized furan precursors using low temperatures and metal-free catalysis in aqueous solutions of dilute base catalysts. We employ in situ NMR assays to clarify the mechanism and kinetics of the conversion. Catalysis serves a double role in ring-opening stable aldoses such as glucose and xylose and facilitating the subsequent reactions with CH acids such as malononitrile or cyanoacetamide. Resultant acyclic products are shown to convert quickly to a monocyclic product prior to the slower formation of a more stable bicyclic intermediate and dehydration to tri-functionalized furan. Especially the reversible 5-exo-dig ring closure entailing oxygen attack onto a nitrile carbon is surprisingly fast with an equilibrium vastly towards the cyclic state, sequestering reactive groups and allowing the selective conversion to tri-functionalized furan. The reaction hinges on the fast formation of intermediates without CH acidity and competes with the oligomerization of CH nucleophiles. Insight derived from in situ NMR analysis shows the prowess of high-resolution in situ spectroscopy in clarifying the interplay between catalysts and reactants. Such insight will be vital for the optimization of reactions that upgrade biorenewables under benign conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number199
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Aqueous solvent
  • Carbohydrate chemistry
  • Furanics
  • In situ NMR
  • Knoevenagel
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Sustainable chemistry


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