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Photocatalytic conversion of cellulose into C5 oligosaccharides.

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


Nathan Skillen

Guan Zhang

Peter K.J. Robertson

John T.S. Irvine


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.


SKILLEN, N., WELGAMAGE, A., ROBERTSON, P.K.J., IRVINE, J.T.S. and LAWTON, L.A. 2023. Photocatalytic conversion of cellulose into C5 oligosaccharides. Journal of physics: energy [online], 6(1), article number 015002. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 19, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 3, 2023
Publication Date Jan 31, 2024
Deposit Date Nov 23, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2023
Journal Journal of physics: energy
Print ISSN 2515-7655
Electronic ISSN 2515-7655
Publisher IOP Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 1
Article Number 015002
Keywords Sugar production; Photocatalytic cellulose conversion; Mechanism selectivity; C5 oligosaccharides; PH
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Additional Information This article has been published with separate supporting information. This supporting information has been incorporated into a single file on this repository and can be found at the end of the file associated with this output.
The research data underpinning this publication is hosted on University of St Andrews institutional repository and is available from:


SKILLEN 2023 Photocatalytic conversion (VOR) (1.4 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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