Sulfonated Graphene Oxide as Effective Catalyst for Conversion of 5-(Hydroxymethyl)-2-furfural into Biofuels



The acid-catalyzed reaction of 5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furfural with ethanol is a promising route to produce biofuels or fuel additives within the carbohydrate platform; specifically, this reaction may give 5-ethoxymethylfurfural, 5-(ethoxymethyl)furfural diethylacetal, and/or ethyl levulinate (bioEs). It is shown that sulfonated, partially reduced graphene oxide (S-RGO) exhibits a more superior catalytic performance for the production of bioEs than several other acid catalysts, which include sulfonated carbons and the commercial acid resin Amberlyst-15, which has a much higher sulfonic acid content and stronger acidity. This was attributed to the cooperative effects of the sulfonic acid groups and other types of acid sites (e.g., carboxylic acids), and to the enhanced accessibility to the active sites as a result of the 2D structure. Moreover, the acidic functionalities bonded to the S-RGO surface were more stable under the catalytic reaction conditions than those of the other solids tested, which allowed its efficient reuse.