Electrochemical Routes for the Valorization of Biomass-Derived Feedstocks: From Chemistry to Application

Joshua Schaidle, Francisco Lucas, R. Grim, Courtney Downes, Joseph Hasse, Alex Roman, Carrie Farberow, Adam Holewinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus Citations


The drive to reduce consumption of fossil resources, coupled with expanding capacity for renewable electricity, invites the exploration of new routes to utilize this energy for the sustainable production of fuels, chemicals, and materials. Biomass represents a possible source of platform precursors for such commodities due to its inherent ability to fix CO2 in the form of multi-carbon organic molecules. Electrochemical methods for the valorization of biomass are thus intriguing, but there is a need to objectively evaluate this field and define the opportunity space by identifying pathways suited to electrochemistry. In this contribution we offer a comprehensive, critical review of recent advances in low-temperature (liquid phase), electrochemical reduction and oxidation of biomass-derived intermediates (polyols, furans, carboxylic acids, amino acids, and lignin), with emphasis on identifying the state-of-the-art for each documented reaction. Progress in computational modeling is also reviewed. We further suggest a number of possible reactions that have not yet been explored but which are expected to proceed based on established routes to transform specific functional groups. We conclude with a critical discussion of technological challenges for scale-up, fundamental research needs, process intensification opportunities (e.g., by pairing compatible oxidations and reductions), and new benchmarking standards that will be necessary to accelerate progress toward application in this still-nascent field.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1205-1270
Number of pages66
JournalACS Energy Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 9 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-78761


  • benchmarking
  • biomass
  • electrolytic reduction
  • fixed platforms
  • organic carbon
  • reaction intermediates


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