A new process for converting sugar into diesel fuel and feedstock chemicals for the manufacture of plastics, drugs, and other products, could help industry circumvent the problem of rising oil and natural gas prices. James Dumesic, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated how to make hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) from the fruit sugar fructose using a straightforward acid-assisted dehydration process. Two additives reduce the formation of side products while butan-2-ol helps push the HMF into the non-aqueous phase ready for extraction. Yields are 80% of HMF with 90% fructose conversion. The HMF product can be used as an intermediate in polymer production and as a diesel-fuel additive, or even as biodiesel itself. Until now, the high cost of HMF has precluded its widespread use.
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