Furfural (C5H4O2) is an organic chemical derived from many agricultural products, including corncobs, wheat bran, oats and sawdust. The name comes from the Latin “furfur,” or bran, which is where the substance is found.
Furfural is a heterocyclic aldehyde, which is a chemical compound with a pentagon-shaped ring attached to a molecule of oxygen and hydrogen on one end. The substance is a liquid at room temperature with an almond-like odor. The liquid darkens quickly when exposed to air.
Furfural is a main ingredient in vanilla extract. Furfural is used as an intermediary to make furfuryl alcohol, a type of rocket fuel and a wood preservative. Furfural also works as a chemical feedstock. Because furfural comes from plant-based sources, it is considered a renewable resource.