Valorization of starchy, cellulosic, and sugary food waste into hydroxymethylfurfural by one-pot catalysis

Iris K.M. Yu, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Alex C.K. Yip, Season S. Chen, Yong Sik Ok, Chi Sun Poon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to produce a high-value platform chemical, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), from food waste and evaluate the catalytic performance of trivalent and tetravalent metals such as AlCl3, CrCl3, FeCl3, Zr(O)Cl2, and SnCl4 for one-pot conversion. Starchy food waste, e.g., cooked rice and penne produced 4.0–8.1 wt% HMF and 46.0–64.8 wt% glucose over SnCl4 after microwave heating at 140 °C for 20 min. This indicated that starch hydrolysis was effectively catalyzed but subsequent glucose isomerization was rate-limited during food waste valorization, which could be enhanced by 40-min reaction to achieve 22.7 wt% HMF from cooked rice. Sugary food waste, e.g., kiwifruit and watermelon, yielded up to 13 wt% HMF over Sn catalyst, which mainly resulted from naturally present fructose. Yet, organic acids in fruits may hinder Fe-catalyzed dehydration by competing for the Lewis sites. In contrast, conversion of raw mixed vegetables as cellulosic food waste was limited by marginal hydrolysis at the studied conditions (120–160 °C and 20–40 min). It is interesting to note that tetravalent metals enabled HMF production at a lower temperature and shorter time, while trivalent metals could achieve a higher HMF selectivity at an elevated temperature. Further studies on kinetics, thermodynamics, and reaction pathways of food waste valorization are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1107
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomass conversion
  • Biorefinery
  • Food waste
  • HMF
  • Metal catalysts
  • Waste valorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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