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Naturally occurring and readily replenishable agricultural residues like sugar cane bagasse (a byproduct of sugar cane harvesting), corn cobs, wood products or cereal byproducts such as the hulls of cotton seed, oats and rice make up a huge renewable feedstock for furfural production. These hemicellulosic agricultural wastes are all rich in pentosans, the precursor polysaccharide of furfural.

Furfural is produced in a digester under high-pressure steam, from where it is recovered by steam distillation, followed by water-furfural separation and purification. The scheme illustrates all consecutive steps in the conversion of sugar cane bagasse into Furfural. In the first step pentosans are hydrolyzed by strong mineral acids to monomeric C5-sugars. Subsequent cyclodehydration of the pentoses yields Furfural.

   

Sugar Cane Processing

 

Furfural Processing

I. Cane preparation
II. Extraction
III. Juice clarification
IV. Juice concentration
V. Crystallisation and Separation
VI. Refining
 

Sugar Cane Bagasse


I. Hydrolysis (H+,H2O)
II. Cyclodehydration (H+,-3H2O)
III. Steam Destillation
IV. Separation (H2O/Furfural)
V. Purification

Sugarcane

Sucrose

Furfural



Hemicelluloses [1] are, next to cellulose, the second most abundant natural organic chemicals in the biosphere, present in all parts of the plant, concentrated in the primary and secondary layers of the cell wall and closely associated with cellulose and lignin. Their biological function is as connecting or integrating units. The chief constituent of this fraction is xylan, a polysaccharide with backbone chains of (1'4)-linked b-D-xylopyranosyl residues. Roughly speaking, the main constituents of the hetero-polysaccharides in hemicellulose are D-xylose and L-arabinose.

[1] Zoebelein-H Dictionary of renewable resources. Weinheim : VCH, 1997.

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