The upgrading of biomass derived streams (BDS) provides a unique opportunity for the synthesis of fuel and chemicals completely derived from renewable sources. In order to achieve a complete greenhouse gas neutral fuel, the upgrading process needs to comply with high energy efficiencies and be able to totally rely in renewable resources as inputs and feedstock. However, one of the main challenges in the utilization of BDS comes from the nature and composition of the original sources, specifically, from the large oxygen content present in the carbohydrate polymers that compose the lignocellulose biomass in comparison with fossil sources . The high concentration of oxygen, carbonyls, and phenolic groups present, directly translate in instability and poor physicochemical properties for their incorporation in the current refinery infrastructure. This drives the need to develop upgrading processes which are tailored to future energy schemes.
Electrochemical reduction is the only technology that can be directly powered by renewable energy sources, and do not require external addition of hydrogen, as this can be generated in-situ. In this work cathode formulations and membrane electrode assembly architectures have being engineered to allow a selective and efficient upgrading of BDS in a flow cell electrolyzer. Experimental results with surrogates and biomass derived streams will be presented.
 D. Mohan, C.U. Pittman, P.H. Steele, Pyrolysis of Wood/Biomass for Bio-oil: A Critical Review, Energy & Fuels, 20 (2006) 848-889.