Synthesis of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) from hexoses has been studied extensively in the scientific literature. However, a process has yet to be implemented at industrial scale. In this paper the simultaneous dehydration of glucose and fructose was investigated, in order to develop a process allowing the use of the cheapest available source of fructose: high fructose corn syrup. The dehydration was catalyzed by hydrochloric acid and conducted in acetone-water mixtures, which ensured good selectivity towards HMF and eliminated precipitation of polymer by-products (insoluble humins). Through a detailed experimental investigation a reaction network was proposed, and subsequently the corresponding kinetic model was fitted to experimental data in order to obtain estimates of the reaction kinetic parameters. The kinetic model is capable of predicting the formation of HMF along with the important by-products: soluble humins, glucose dimers, anhydroglucose, and formic acid. The reaction conditions in four different reactor configurations were optimized and compared using the kinetic model. It was found that a recirculating reactor setup is preferable, where the equilibrium controlled by-products (anhydroglucose and glucose dimers) are recirculated to the dehydration reactor. The model predicts an HMF selectivity of close to 70% in a recirculating reactor at conditions where HMF degradation is avoided.
- Reactor configuration