Thermochemistry and kinetic analysis for the conversion of furfural to valuable added products

  • Natalia Pino
  • Diana López
  • Juan F. EspinalEmail author
Original Paper


Furfural is a valuable oxygenated compound derived from the thermal decomposition of biomass, and is one of the major problems of bio-oil upgrading. Due to its high reactivity, this compound requires further upgrading to more stable products such as furfuryl alcohol, 2-methylfuran (MF), furan, 2-methyltetrahydrofuran, and tetrahydrofuran. The thermochemical data and kinetic analysis of the reactions involved in the conversion of furfural were investigated by molecular modeling to guide experimental investigations in the process of designing efficient catalysts that allows the control of the reaction pathways in specific directions, towards the production of fuel precursors or chemicals. All calculations for reactants, intermediates, and products were performed using the long range corrected functional WB97XD, with the basis set 6–311+g(d,p), under the density functional theory framework. Thermochemistry results suggest that furfural hydrogenation to form furfuryl alcohol is spontaneous up to a temperature of 523 K, but beyond this temperature the reaction becomes a nonspontaneous process. By contrast, the decarbonylation of furfural was thermodynamically favored at temperatures greater than 523 K. Therefore, furan is a thermodynamically favored product, while furfuryl alcohol is kinetically preferred. Once furfuryl alcohol is formed, the hydrogenolysis path to produce methylfuran is favored kinetically and thermodynamically, compared to the ring-hydrogenation towards tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol. Gas phase thermodynamic properties and rate constants of the reactions involved in the conversion of furfural were calculated and compared against existing experimental data. This study provides the basis for further vapor phase catalytic studies required for upgrading of furans/furfurals to value-added chemicals.

Graphical abstract

Furan is a thermodynamically favored product, while furfuryl alcohol is kinetically preferred.


Furfural Thermochemistry Density functional theory 2-methylfuran Biomass 



The authors thank the project “Sustainable products from biomass” financed by Newton Institutional Link Funds, Colciencias, and Universidad de Antioquia UdeA (FP44842-241-2017). Natalia Pino gratefully acknowledges to the Universidad de Antioquia for her Doctoral scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

Supplementary material

894_2018_3908_MOESM1_ESM.docx (358 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 357 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Química de Recursos Energéticos y Medio Ambiente, Instituto de Química, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Antioquia UdeAMedellínColombia

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