The liquid-phase polymerization of furfuryl alcohol catalyzed by sulfuric acid catalysts and the identities of molecular intermediates were investigated by using Raman spectroscopy and density functional theory calculation. At room temperature, with an acid catalyst, a vigorous furfuryl alcohol polymerization reaction was observed, whereas even at a high water concentration, furfuryl alcohol was very stable in the absence of an acid catalyst. Theoretical studies were carried out to investigate the thermodynamics of protonation of furfuryl alcohol, initiation of polymerization, and formation of conjugated dienes and diketonic species by using the B3LYP level of theory. A strong aliphatic CC band observed in the calculated and measured Raman spectra provided crucial evidence to understand the polymerization reaction mechanism. It is confirmed that the formation of a conjugated diene structure rather than a diketone structure is involved in the furfuryl alcohol polymerization reaction.
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