Gold into black gold

A gold catalyst can help convert biomass into methyl esters for use as an alternative chemical industry feedstock to compliment or even displace petroleum-derived compounds. Claus Christensen and colleagues in the Center for Sustainable & Green Chemistry at the Technical University of Denmark, in Lyngby, have developed a selective gold-catalyst for the oxidation of furfural and hydroxymethylfurfural into their respective methyl esters. The researchers used sodium methoxide in methanol solvent, an oxygen atmosphere, and gold deposited on titania nanoparticles to efficiently convert the hydroxyl and/or aldehyde groups of the starting materials to the end product. Methyl furoate formed from furfural is useful for flavor and fragrance applications and potentially as an industrial solvent. Furandimethylcarboxylate derived from hydroxymethylfurfural is a monomer that can replace terephthalic acid in plastics, the researchers say.