A novel route for the production of renewable aromatic chemicals, particularly substituted phthalic acid anhydrides, is presented. The classical two-step approach to furanics-derived aromatics via Diels-Alder (DA) aromatization has been modified into a three-step procedure to address the general issue of the reversible nature of the intermediate DA addition step. The new sequence involves DA addition, followed by a mild hydrogenation step to obtain a stable oxanorbornane intermediate in high yield and purity. Subsequent one-pot, liquid-phase dehydration and dehydrogenation of the hydrogenated adduct using a physical mixture of acidic zeolites or resins in combination with metal on a carbon support then allows aromatization with yields as high as 84 % of total aromatics under relatively mild conditions. The mechanism of the final aromatization reaction step unexpectedly involves a lactone as primary intermediate.
- Diels-Alder reaction