A new class of biodegradable anionic surfactants with structures based on 5-alkoxymethylfuroate was prepared starting from 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), through a one-pot–two-steps process which involves the selective etherification of HMF with fatty alcohols using heterogeneous solid acid, followed by a highly selective oxidation of the formyl group with a gold catalyst. The etherification step was optimized using aluminosilicates as acid catalysts with different pore topologies (H-Beta, HY, Mordenite, ZSM-5, ITQ-2, and MCM-41), different active sites (Bronsted or Lewis) and different adsorption properties. It was shown that highly hydrophobic defect-free H-Beta zeolites with Si/Al ratios higher than 25 are excellent acid catalysts to perform the selective etherification of HMF with fatty alcohols, avoiding the competitive self-etherification of HMF. Moreover, the 5-alkoxymethylfurfural derivatives obtained can be selectively oxidized to the corresponding furoic salts in excellent yield using Au/CeO2 as catalyst and air as oxidant, at moderated temperatures. Both H-Beta zeolite and Au/CeO2 could be reused several times without loss of activity.
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