Red Algae as Chemical Feedstock

Red Algae as Chemical Feedstock

Author: Brigitte Osterath

Red macroalgae could be a new source for renewable chemicals and biofuels according to researchers at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology in Chungham, South Korea. Bora Kim and her colleagues have converted agar, the most abundant carbohydrate in red algae, to 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) in one single step. HMF is a promising platform compound to produce a wide range of chemicals and fuels.

The team converted agar to HMF under acidic conditions by using the solid Brønsted acid Dowex 50WX8 in the solvent DMSO to achieve a 10 % yield. With CrCl2 as a metal catalyst, the yield rose to a maximum of 25 % after 10 hours. With land plant-based cellulose as the raw material, no HMF formed.

Dried red algae species contain up to 80 weight % carbohydrates, mainly galactan, a polymer of galactose. Moreover, they do not contain lignin, macromolecules which are responsible for the lignification of a material and which are difficult to process.

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