Reevaluation of the phenol-sulfuric acid reaction for the estimation of hexoses and pentoses

Pragna Rao, Thillaisthanam N. Pattabiraman

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238 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence is provided to show that in the conventional phenol-sulfuric acid reaction procedure, phenol underwent sulfonation in situ and the phenolsulfonic acid formed decreased the color intensity for hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), furfural, and many hexoses and pentoses tested. A modified method is described to overcome this problem in which phenol was added after the dehydration of carbohydrates by sulfuric acid and after cooling the system. The color intensity around 475-485 nm for different compounds was fairly proportional to the amount of furfural derivatives (absorption at 310-320 nm) formed from the sugars in the modified method unlike in the conventional procedure. The studies also show that for condensation of HMF derivatives with phenol, heat is not necessary. The color intensity in the modified method also increased compared to that in the conventional method. The increase in the modified method compared to that in the conventional method was 6.0-fold for furfural, 9.1-fold for hydroxymethyl furfural, 3.7-fold for fructose, 2.3-fold for xylose, and 2.0-fold for glucose and arabinose. The possible reasons for this differential increase are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-22
Number of pages5
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15-08-1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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