International team converts biomass to furfural and five-carbon sugars

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In Australia, researchers from the University of Wollongong, together with scientists from India and Bangladesh, have developed a cheap method for converting agricultural waste into chemicals for food and pharmaceuticals.

“We collected raw biomass such as bagasse, rice husk, wheat straw, cotton stalk, corn cob and low grade jute from different areas of India and Bangladesh and converted it into high-value chemicals such as xylose and arabinose, furfural and HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural), which are used in the food industry and in pharmaceuticals,” Shahriar Hossain of UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials says.

Professor Wu from Taiwan National University added that five-carbon sugars and furfural have numerous commercial uses. “Xylose and Arabinose are healthy, five-carbon, low glycemic index sugars” and can be used in foods for management of blood glucose and insulin levels,” Wu says.

Furfural and furfural derivatives are also used in fungicides, pesticides, bioplastics, and flavor enhancers.