Tokyo Tech researchers report bioplastic catalyst breakthrough

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In Tokyo, scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a catalyst for oxidizing 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, a key step in making the bioplastic polyethylene furanoate (PEF).

Specifically, the process converts HMF to 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a PEF precursor. Previous oxidation catalysts required precious metals that were expensive and not widely available. Researchers at Tokyo Tech, however, found that readily available manganese dioxide can catalyze the desired reaction if its structure has active planar oxygen sites.

“The synthesis of high-surface-area β-MnO2 is a promising strategy for the highly efficient oxidation of HMF with MnO2 catalysts,” says Keigo Kamata. “Further functionalization of β-MnO2 will open up a new avenue for the development of highly efficient catalysts for the oxidation of various biomass-derived compounds,” adds fellow author Michikazu Hara.

The findings were reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.