Chemists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have developed a new, low-cost catalyst for plastic production. It turns a biorefinery product into a starting material for the synthesis of plastics, which could represent a sustainable alternative to widespread PET. At the same time, hydrogen can also be formed during the reaction.
The researchers describe the work in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
In their study, the Bochum-based researchers present a nickel boride catalyst which—as it does not contain any precious metals—is readily available and affordable compared to many other catalysts. It can turn the biorefinery product HMF (5-hydroxymethyl-furfural) into FDCA (2,5-furandicarboxylic acid).
FDCA is interesting for the industry because it can be processed into polyesters. PEF, an alternative to PET, can thus be produced – and all of this is based on renewable raw materials, i.e. plants.—Dr. Stefan Barwe
In the tests conducted by the Bochum-based team, the catalyst turned 98.5% of the starting material HMF into FDCA in half an hour; no waste products are created.
We have also designed the catalyst in such a way that it is effective under the same conditions under which hydrogen production is also successful.—Dr. Barwe
The team also clarified the reaction step by step using electrochemical methods and infrared spectroscopy. For the first time, the chemists were able to track in real time which intermediate products turn HMF into FDCA.
Stefan Barwe, Jonas Weidner, Steffen Cychy, Dulce M. Morales, Stefan Dieckhöfer, Dennis Hiltrop, Justus Masa, Martin Muhler, Wolfgang Schuhmann (2018) “Electrocatalytic 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural oxidation using high surface area nickel boride,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition doi: 10.1002/anie.201806298