A biorefinery that supplements its manufacture of low value biofuels with high value biobased chemicals can enable efforts to reduce nonrenewable fuel consumption while simultaneously providing the necessary financial incentive to stimulate expansion of the biorefining industry. However, the choice of appropriate products for addition to the biorefinery's portfolio is challenged by a lack of broad-based conversion technology coupled with a plethora of potential targets. In 2004, the US Department of Energy (DOE) addressed these challenges by describing a selection process for chemical products that combined identification of a small group of compounds derived from biorefinery carbohydrates with the research and technology needs required for their production. The intent of the report was to catalyze research efforts to synthesize multiple members of this group, or, ideally, structures not yet on the list. In the six years since DOE's original report, considerable progress has been made in the use of carbohydrates as starting materials for chemical production. This review presents an updated evaluation of potential target structures using similar selection methodology, and an overview of the technology developments that led to the inclusion of a given compound. The list provides a dynamic guide to technology development that could realize commercial success through the proper integration of biofuels with biobased products.
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