Photocatalytic conversion of cellulose into C5 oligosaccharides

Nathan Skillen, Aakash Welgamage, Guan Zhang, Peter K J Robertson*, John T S Irvine*, Linda A Lawton*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cellulose is made up of linear polymers of glucose monomers that could be a crucial source for valuable chemicals and sustainable liquid fuels. Cellulose is however, very stable and its conversion to a useful fuel or platform chemical products remains a significant challenge (Kimura et al 2015 Sci. Rep.5 16266; Xia et al 2016 Nat. Commun.7 11162). Photocatalysis is a versatile technology which has demonstrated potential for solar driven processes such as water splitting or solar fuels production and has also been applied to the degradation of pollutants in air and water and for the production of useful products from biomass. Here, we focus on the products that are produced from cellulose (a glucose (C6) based polymer) photocatalysis that compliment hydrogen production. Probing the initial steps via UV-TiO2 photocatalysis, we remarkably find that an array of oligosaccharides containing only five (C5) carbon units is initially produced. As the process continues, C6 oligo oligosaccharides grow to dominate. The photocatalytic process is generally not viewed as a controllable synthetic process; however, these findings show, on the contrary that photocatalysis at semiconductor surfaces can achieve novel reaction pathways yielding new products.
Original languageEnglish
Article number015002
JournalJournal of Physics: Energy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2023


  • Sugar production
  • Photocatalytic cellulose conversion
  • Mechanism selectivity
  • C5 oligosaccharides
  • pH


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