In the growing context of sustainable chemistry, one of the challenges of organic chemists is to develop efficient and environmentally friendly methods for the synthesis of high-added-value products. Heterogeneous photocatalytic transformations have brought revolution in this regard, as they take advantage of an unlimited source of energy (solar light) or artificial UV light to onset organic chemical modifications. The abundance of free carbohydrates as chemical platform feedstock offers a great opportunity to obtain a variety of industrial interest compounds from biomass. Due to their chirality and polyfunctionality, the conversion of sugars generally requires multi-step protocols with protection/deprotection steps and hazardous chemical needs. In this context, several selective and eco-friendly methodologies are currently under development. This review presents a state of art of the recent accomplishments concerning the use of photocatalysts for the transformation and valorization of free carbohydrates. It discusses the approaches leading to the selective oxidation of free sugars, their degradation into organic chemicals, or their use for hydrogen production.
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