Conversion of fructose and glucose into 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) was investigated in various imidazolium ionic liquids, including 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (BmimCl), 1-hexyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (HmimCl), 1-octyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (OmimCl), 1-benzyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (BemimCl), 1-Butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium chloride (BdmimCl), and 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium p-toluenesulfonate (BmimPS). The acidic C-2 hydrogen of imidazolium cations was shown to play a major role in the dehydration of fructose in the absence of a catalyst, such as sulfuric acid or CrCl3. Both the alkyl groups of imidazolium cations and the type of anions affected the reactivity of the carbohydrates. Although, except BmimCl and BemimCl, other four ionic liquids could only achieve not more than 25% HMF yields without an additional catalyst, 60-80% HMF yields were achieved in HmimCl, BdmimCl, and BmimPS in the presence of sulfuric acid or CrCl3 in sufficient quantities. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.