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A highly efficient heterogeneous catalyst for making THF and other chemicals from biomass

By Tetsuo Satoh |

The research group of Keiichi Tomishige at Tohoku University (Sendai, www.che.tohoku.ac.jp/~erec), in collaboration with Daicel Corp. (Tokyo, both Japan; www.daicel.com/en), has developed a catalytic reaction system that is highly efficient for synthesizing tetrahydrofuran (THF) — a widely used solvent and raw material for making polyether resin. The catalyst system consists of rhenium as the major active metal and palladium as a promoter, on a cerium oxide support. In laboratory trials, a THF yield of more than 99% is achieved for the hydrogenolysis of the two adjacent hydroxyl groups of 1,4-anhydroerythritol (which is made by the fermentation and dehydration of sugar) in a dioxane solvent at 140–180°C and H2 pressure of several tens of atmospheres. The catalytic reaction exhibited a turnover number velocity of 300 h–1, and turnover number of 10,000, which is one order of magnitude larger than alternative homogeneous catalyst systems that use rhenium catalysts reducing agents, which are more costly than H2. The Re/Pd catalyst is not only highly active, but it is easily recovered by filtration and can be reused — without a loss in activity — after calcination to remove traces of organic compounds. The chemists say the new…
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