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2 Carbohydrate Conversions
The fermentation of glucose to ethanol has been widely described as a means to not only produce beverages but also produce ethanol for transportation fuels. Here first generation bioethanol uses expensive carbohydrate sources such as starch and sugar from corn and sugar crops while second generation is focusing developments on using inexpensive lignocellulose agricultural waste streams and lower investment costs. A third area is the use of ethanol produced from fermentation as a raw material for the chemical industry. Ethanol is dehydrated to produce ethylene, a major product for the production of a number of chemicals as well as being used as the monomer for the production of polyethylene (PE). Dow and Crystalsev have entered a joint venture in Brazil which will produce ethanol from sugarcane for conversion to ethylene and finally to PE. The integrated production is expected to start in 2011 with a capacity of 350 K tonnes per annum.
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In the pharmaceutical industry the conversion of sorbitol to isosorbide has been carried out. Isosorbide is used as an intermediate for a number of products however this has been limited to applications on small scale with high product specification and cost. In recent years new markets and applications for isosorbide derivatives have been explored. Research, media publicity and public concern as to the health implications for the use of plasticisers in materials such as PVC have lead to investigation into safer alternatives. One such development is the formation of esters of isosorbide [1]. These types of compounds have shown suitable performance as a plasticiser while enjoying the benefits of reduced human toxicity, Fig. 1. Allied to this the isosorbide component of the plasticiser is bio-derived.
Fig. 1 Isosorbide ester synthesis from sorbitol by dehydration and esterification

Pentoses, from the hemicellulose component of plant material, has been widely studied and applied. Mainly they are obtained from agricultural waste streams generated from rice, corn and sugar production. Pentoses under the action of acid, usually sulphuric acid, results in dehydration and cyclisation resulting in the formation of furfural. Furfural itself has commercial application as a solvent but can also be converted by reduction to form furfuryl alcohol which can be used polymerised under acidic conditions to form polymeric resin materials used to form moulds in the metal (casting) industry. While the formation of hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), formed by the acid catalysed dehydration and cyclisation of hexoses has also been described, its commercial production (to the best of our knowledge) has never been achieved despite its very rich chemistry. However recent years has seen a resurgence in interest in HMF and in particular its conversion towards furan ring containing di-functional monomers such as 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (2,5-FDA). Here the emphasis has been the formation of compounds with similar chemical and structural properties to petrochemically derived monomers such as terephthalic acid thus offering the possibility to produce bio-derived monomers resulting in polymers with similar properties to conventional petrochemical materials. Other strategies towards bio-derived monomers, such as 1,3-propanediol (1,3-PDO), have also been investigated. While the chemical synthesis of 1,3-PDO
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has been known for some time, production was not without its problems. However, it was only with the advances in genetic engineering made by DuPont and Genencor that resulted in the successful commercial production of 1,3-PDO from glucose for use in the polymer poly(propylene terephthalate) (PPT), Sorona R _ [2]. The use of glycerol (from renewable raw materials) for 1,3-PDO synthesis has also been reported and a number of advanced studies in China have already been established to pilot scale (5,000 l) production using Klebsiella pneumoniae [3].

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