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Keywords:

  • dehydration;
  • reactive adsorption;
  • adsorption;
  • kinetics;
  • 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde;
  • fructose;
  • multifunctional reactors;
  • process intensification;
  • reactive separation

5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) can be produced from the acid-catalyzed dehydration of fructose, but its yield is limited due to subsequent HMF degradation to side products. A reactive adsorption process is proposed to improve the yield to HMF. Separate experimental single-component isotherms of fructose, HMF, formic acid, and levulinic acid on carbon BP2000 and reaction kinetics of the fructose dehydration to HMF in aqueous solution of HCl are presented to develop empirical isotherms and kinetic rate constants, respectively. These submodels are subsequently integrated in an adsorptive reactor at a range of temperatures (100–150°C) with different loadings of adsorbent. It is shown that the adsorbent improves HMF yield compared to the single-solution phase (adsorbent-free case). Low temperatures and high-adsorbent loadings improve HMF yield. Under certain conditions both reactive adsorption and the commonly used reactive extraction can result in a similar improvement in HMF yield. HMF recovery from the solid adsorbent has been identified as a major challenge that can be ameliorated through adsorbent and solvent selection. The framework outlined here can be applied to any aqueous phase chemistry where the desired product is an intermediate in a reaction cascade. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 3378–3390, 2013