Kinetics and mechanism of tetrahydrofuran synthesis via 1,4-butanediol dehydration in high-temperature water

Shawn E. Hunter, Carolyn E. Ehrenberger, Phillip E. Savage

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We conducted an experimental investigation into the kinetics and mechanism of tetrahydrofuran synthesis from 1,4-butanediol via dehydration in high-temperature liquid water (HTW) without added catalyst at 200-350 °C. The reaction was reversible, with tetrahydrofuran being produced at an equilibrium yield of 84% (at 200 °C) to 94% (at 350 °C). The addition of CO2 to the reaction mixture increased the reaction rate by a factor of 1.9-2.9, because of the increase in acidity resulting from the formation and dissociation of carbonic acid. This increase was much less than that expected (factor of 37-60) from a previously suggested acid-catalyzed mechanism. This disagreement prompted experiments with added acid (HCl) and base (NaOH) to investigate the influence of pH on the reaction rate. These experiments revealed three distinct regions of pH dependence. At high and low pH, the dehydration rate increased with increasing acidity. At near-neutral pH, however, the rate was essentially insensitive to changes in pH. This behavior is consistent with a mechanism where H2O, in addition to H+, serves as a proton donor. This work indicates that the relatively high native concentration of H+ (large Kw), which has commonly been thought to lead to the occurrence of acid-catalyzed reactions in HTW without added catalyst, does not explain the dehydration of 1,4-butanediol in HTW without catalyst. Rather, H2O serves directly as the proton donor for the reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6229-6239
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Organic Chemistry
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Organic Chemistry


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