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Keywords:

  • alkylation;
  • biomass;
  • depolymerisation;
  • lignin;
  • supercritical ethanol

Abstract

One-step valorization of soda lignin in supercritical ethanol using a CuMgAlOx catalyst results in high monomer yield (23 wt %) without char formation. Aromatics are the main products. The catalyst combines excellent deoxygenation with low ring-hydrogenation activity. Almost half of the monomer fraction is free from oxygen. Elemental analysis of the THF-soluble lignin residue after 8 h reaction showed a 68 % reduction in O/C and 24 % increase in H/C atomic ratios as compared to the starting Protobind P1000 lignin. Prolonged reaction times enhanced lignin depolymerization and reduced the amount of repolymerized products. Phenolic hydroxyl groups were found to be the main actors in repolymerization and char formation. 2D HSQC NMR analysis evidenced that ethanol reacts by alkylation and esterification with lignin fragments. Alkylation was found to play an important role in suppressing repolymerization. Ethanol acts as a capping agent, stabilizing the highly reactive phenolic intermediates by O-alkylating the hydroxyl groups and by C-alkylating the aromatic rings. The use of ethanol is significantly more effective in producing monomers and avoiding char than the use of methanol. A possible reaction network of the reactions between the ethanol and lignin fragments is discussed.