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Oxidative Depolymerization of Lignin in Ionic Liquids

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Abstract

Beech lignin was oxidatively cleaved in ionic liquids to give phenols, unsaturated propylaromatics, and aromatic aldehydes. A multiparallel batch reactor system was used to screen different ionic liquids and metal catalysts. Mn(NO3)2 in 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium trifluoromethanesulfonate [EMIM][CF3SO3] proved to be the most effective reaction system. A larger scale batch reaction with this system in a 300 mL autoclave (11 g lignin starting material) resulted in a maximum conversion of 66.3 % (24 h at 100 °C, 84×105 Pa air). By adjusting the reaction conditions and catalyst loading, the selectivity of the process could be shifted from syringaldehyde as the predominant product to 2,6-dimethoxy-1,4-benzoquinone (DMBQ). Surprisingly, the latter could be isolated as a pure substance in 11.5 wt % overall yield by a simple extraction/crystallization process.

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