What molecule am I?
Furfural, or furan-2-carbaldehyde, is an oily liquid formed when sugars from lignocellulosic biomasses such as corncobs, sawdust, and oat hulls dehydrate. This is a natural process that is the basis of the commercial production of furfural.
In the first half of the 19th century, chemists such as Johann W. Döbereiner at the University of Jena (Germany) and John Stenhouse at Glasgow University discovered furfural in the distillation products of various biomaterials. It did not become an industrial product until Quaker Oats (Chicago) began to produce it on a large scale from oat hulls.
Furfural, one of the earliest sustainable chemical feedstocks, is used to synthesize a wide range of industrial chemicals, including solvents, resins, plastics, and furan derivatives. As the hazard information table shows, it must be handled with an abundance of caution.
Furfural is one of several five-carbon oxygenated hydrocarbons that make up the aroma of canned pumpkin you might use to make your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Oddly, this odor differs significantly from that of the six-carbon compounds, such as former Molecule of the Week cis-3-hexen-1-ol, that emanates from freshly cut pumpkins.
Happy Thanksgiving from the MOTW team!
Learn more about this molecule from CAS, the most authoritative and comprehensive source for chemical information.