The current climate awareness coupled with increased focus on renewable energy and biobased chemicals have led to an increased demand for such biomass derived products. Electrosynthesis is a relatively new approach that allows a shift from conventional fossil-based chemistry towards a new model of a real sustainable chemistry that allows to use the excess renewable electricity to convert biobased feedstock into base and commodity chemicals.
The electrosynthesis approach is expected to increase the production efficiency and minimize negative health for the workers and environmental impact all along the value chain. In this review, we discuss the various electrosynthesis approaches that have been applied on carbohydrate biomass specifically to produce valuable chemicals. The studies on the electro-oxidation of saccharides have mostly targeted the oxidation of the primary alcohol groups to form the corresponding uronic acids, with Au or TEMPO as the active electrocatalysts.
The investigations on electroreduction of saccharides focused on the reduction of the aldehyde groups to the corresponding alcohols, using a variety of metal electrodes. Both oxidation and reduction pathways are elaborated here with most recent examples. Further recommendations have been made about the research needs, choice of electrocatalyst and electrolyte as well as upscaling the technology.