Renewable lubricants with tailored molecular architecture

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Science Advances  01 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav5487
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav5487


We present a strategy to synthesize three types of renewable lubricant base oils with up to 90% yield using 2-alkylfurans, derived from nonfood biomass, and aldehydes, produced from natural oils or biomass through three chemistries: hydroxyalkylation/alkylation (HAA), HAA followed by hydrogenation, and HAA followed by hydrodeoxygenation. These molecules consist of (i) furan rings, (ii) saturated furan rings, and (iii) deoxygenated branched alkanes. The structures of these molecules can be tailored in terms of carbon number, branching length, distance between branches, and functional groups. The site-specific, energy-efficient C–C coupling chemistry in oxygenated biomass compounds, unmatched in current refineries, provides tailored structure and tunable properties. Molecular simulation demonstrates the ability to predict properties in agreement with experiments, proving the potential for molecular design.

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