Efficient Oxidative Esterification of Furfural Using Au Nanoparticles Supported on Group 2 Alkaline Earth Metal Oxides

Catalysts, vol. 10, pg. 430 (2020)

Furfural (FF) is a strategic product for the development of highly valued chemicals from biomass. The oxidation product of FF, furoic acid (FA), is an important precursor for the synthesis of green esters, such as methyl furoate. Taking into account issues with the direct furfural oxidation, furfural derivatives, such as alkyl furoates, can be easily prepared via oxidative esterification. Here, Au nanoparticles that were immobilized on alkaline-earth metal oxide supports were studied for the oxidative esterification of furfural while using alcohol as both reactant and solvent. The formation of esters is favored by the presence of basic sites on catalyst surface, resulting in high selectivity, preventing the formation of the acetal as a by-product. The Au/MgO sample provided up to 95% methyl furoate (MF) yield, a fast reaction rate, and high performance for furfural:Au molar ratios between 50 and 300. Furthermore, this catalyst was stable during reuse, since both the selectivity and the activity were maintained after four cycles. Oxidative esterification products were achieved in the presence of other alcohols, leading to the formation of esters of up to C5(isopentyl furoate) with high selectivity (>99%). Linear and branched esters were formed, but the long-chain linear alcohols resulted in higher yields, such as n-butyl furoate in 94% yield.