Selective catalytic oxidation of sugar alcohols to lactic acid†
Sorbitol and xylitol obtained from biomass are considered promising potential sources of both carbon building blocks and energy. We report the efficient and selective conversion of sorbitol, xylitol and other polyols into lactic acid as the major product through homogeneous iridium-NHC catalyzed dehydrogenative processes. The proposed reaction mechanism involves base-driven hydrolysis of simple sugars which accounts for the catalyst selectivity observed. In addition, catalyst deactivation pathways are explored and rational catalyst optimization is attempted through fine tuning of the complex.