The Road to Biorenewables: Carbohydrates to Commodity Chemicals

Roger A. Sheldon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)
498 Downloads (Pure)


The pressing need for climate change mitigation has focused attention on reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide by effectuating the transition from fossil-based chemicals manufacture to a carbon neutral alternative based on lignocellulosic waste. The first step involves fractionation of the lignocellulose into cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Subsequently, a cellulase enzyme cocktail is used to catalyze the hydrolysis of the polysaccharides into their constituent sugars. This is followed by selective conversion of the carbohydrates into commodity chemicals using a variety of sustainable bio- and chemocatalytic methodologies. These include, inter alia, fermentative production of alcohols, diols, and carboxylic acids and a variety of chemocatalytic reductions and oxidations. Hence, the transition from fossil feedstocks to lignocellulose represents a switch from hydrocarbons to carbohydrates as the primary basic chemicals. To compare these renewable biomass-based routes with their petrochemical equivalents, it is necessary to develop reliable sustainability metrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4464-4480
Number of pages17
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Carbohydrates
  • Enzyme immobilization
  • Ethanol equivalent
  • Lignin
  • Lignocellulose
  • Magnetic enzymes
  • Renewable biomass
  • Sustainability metrics


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