Tetrahydrofuran is a colorless versatile solvent, with low viscosity. It easily mixes with water. It is used widely as a precursor for manufacturing of polymers. The annual production of THF is around 200,000 MT, prepared from 1,4-butanediol. DuPont, ISP are some of the biggest manufacturers of Tetrahydrofuran. THF is stored in tightly sealed metal drums or in glass containers. It is highly flammable. It has to be stored in a dry, cool and very well- ventilated area, to reduce the risk of unnecessary ignition. For transportation, it is classified under pacing group III and hazard class 3. It has been predicted that the THF production will increase over the years as the Chinese economy continues to grow.
- One of the oldest and traditional methods of manufacturing Tetrahydrofuran is by using furfural, which is extracted from corn husk. Since this method heavily depended on the agricultural practices of corn-growing, THF manufacturing was shifted to a new process.
- Reppe process: Ethanol and formaldehyde combine to form 1,4-butanediol. Using an acidic ion-exchange resin, 1,4-butanediol is dehydrated to produce THF. This method is widely accepted and used all over the world for THF production.
- DuPont method- This method involves n-butadiene to produce maleic anhydride, followed by catalytic hydrogenation.
Recycled tetrahydrofuran is commonly used for industrial purposes such as:
- The main use of THF is as an industrial solvent for PVC manufacturing. It is also used as solvent for various other natural and synthetic resins.
- It is a chemical intermediate in preparation of polymers like poly-tetramethylene ether glycol. This polymer is in turn used in making polyurethane fibres.
- THF is used in gel permeation chromatography as it can easily dissolve polymer materials. It is widely used in polymer-science studies and for research purposes.
- THF is used as a solvent in 3D printing when using PLA plastics. It can be used to clean clogged 3D printer parts, as well as when finishing prints to remove extruder lines and add a shine to the finished product.