Biomass has been long exploited as an anthropogenic energy source; however, the 21st century challenges of energy security and climate change are driving resurgence in its utilization both as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels and as a sustainable carbon feedstock for chemicals production. Deconstruction of cellulose and hemicellulose carbohydrate polymers into their constituent C5 and C6 sugars, and subsequent heterogeneously catalyzed transformations, offer the promise of unlocking diverse oxygenates such as furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and gluconic acid as biorefinery platform chemicals. Here, we review recent advances in the design and development of catalysts and processes for C5-C6 sugar reforming into chemical intermediates and products, and highlight the challenges of aqueous phase operation and catalyst evaluation, in addition to process considerations such as solvent and reactor selection.
Bibliographical note© 2016 American Chemical Society. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.
Funding: EPSRC (EP/K014706/1, EP/G007594/4, EP/K000616/2, EP/K014676/1, and EP/K014749/1); Royal Society; and British Council GB3-Net.