Maleic acid from furfural via a cascade approach combining photochemistry and electro- or biochemistry

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Maleic acid is an important raw material that finds multiple applications in the chemical industry such as in manufacturing of unsaturated polyester resins, lubricant additives, surface coatings, textile, photographical chemicals, plasticizers, pharmaceutical products and in agricultural chemicals. In our on-going research, Maleic acid is widely being used to synthesize chemicals for different applications, biobased aromatic (bulk) chemicals in particular.1

The current industrial process of maleic acid involves hydrolysis of maleic anhydride which in turn is obtained from the vapor phase oxidation of fossil-based benzene or n-butane. Lately, renewable resources have been investigated to circumvent the use of fossil derived feed-stocks. In particular, biomass-derived platform chemicals like butanol, levulinic acid, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and furfural were investigated as starting materials for the synthesis of maleic acid.2 Among these platform chemicals, furfural is an interesting substrate since the commercial production is already established starting from carbohydrates.3

In the present study, we investigate the two-step synthesis of maleic acid under very mild conditions. In the first step, 5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone is synthesized via photochemical oxidation and proposed as an stable intermediate. Subsequent oxidation in the second step, either by an electrochemical or enzymatic process, to produce maleic acid in high yield and selectivity.
1 a. Thiyagarajan S., Genuino, H.C. et al., ChemSusChem 2015, 8, 3052-3056; b. Thiyagarajan S., Genuino H.C. et al., Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2016, 55, 1368-1371.

2 a. Wang K.F., Liu C.l. et al., ChemBioChem 2018, 19, 654-659; b. Wojcieszak R., Santarelli F. et al., Sustainable Chemical Processes 2015, 3, 9; c. Centi G., Trifiro F. et al., Chemical Reviews 1988, 88, 55-80; d. Frontmatter. In Industrial Organic Chemistry, pp I-XVII, 1997; e. Yang M., Liu B.t., et al., Chinese Journal of Polymer Science 2010, 28, 951-959; f. Front Matter. In Plastic Packaging, pp I-XVIII, 2008.

3 a. Maleic and Fumaric Acids. In Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2000, b. Luo Y., Li Z. et al., Catalysis Today 2019, 319, 14-24.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event71st annual meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry - Online
Duration: 31 Aug 20201 Sep 2020


Conference71st annual meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry
Internet address


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