Continuous Flow Upgrading of Selected C2-C6 Platform Chemicals Derived from Biomass

Chem Rev. 2020 Aug 12;120(15):7219-7347. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.9b00846. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


The ever increasing industrial production of commodity and specialty chemicals inexorably depletes the finite primary fossil resources available on Earth. The forecast of population growth over the next 3 decades is a very strong incentive for the identification of alternative primary resources other than petro-based ones. In contrast with fossil resources, renewable biomass is a virtually inexhaustible reservoir of chemical building blocks. Shifting the current industrial paradigm from almost exclusively petro-based resources to alternative bio-based raw materials requires more than vibrant political messages; it requires a profound revision of the concepts and technologies on which industrial chemical processes rely. Only a small fraction of molecules extracted from biomass bears significant chemical and commercial potentials to be considered as ubiquitous chemical platforms upon which a new, bio-based industry can thrive. Owing to its inherent assets in terms of unique process experience, scalability, and reduced environmental footprint, flow chemistry arguably has a major role to play in this context. This review covers a selection of C2 to C6 bio-based chemical platforms with existing commercial markets including polyols (ethylene glycol, 1,2-propanediol, 1,3-propanediol, glycerol, 1,4-butanediol, xylitol, and sorbitol), furanoids (furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural) and carboxylic acids (lactic acid, succinic acid, fumaric acid, malic acid, itaconic acid, and levulinic acid). The aim of this review is to illustrate the various aspects of upgrading bio-based platform molecules toward commodity or specialty chemicals using new process concepts that fall under the umbrella of continuous flow technology and that could change the future perspectives of biorefineries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / chemistry*
  • Biomass*
  • Carboxylic Acids / chemistry*
  • Chemical Industry / methods*
  • Furans / chemistry*
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Sugar Alcohols / chemistry


  • Alcohols
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Furans
  • Polymers
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • polyol