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Title: Base-Catalyzed Depolymerization of Biorefinery Lignins

Lignocellulosic biorefineries will produce a substantial pool of lignin-enriched residues, which are currently slated to be burned for heat and power. Going forward, however, valorization strategies for residual solid lignin will be essential to the economic viability of modern biorefineries. To achieve these strategies, effective lignin depolymerization processes will be required that can convert specific lignin-enriched biorefinery substrates into products of sufficient value and market size. Base-catalyzed depolymerization (BCD) of lignin using sodium hydroxide and other basic media has been shown to be an effective depolymerization approach when using technical and isolated lignins relevant to the pulp and paper industry. Moreover, to gain insights in the application of BCD to lignin-rich, biofuels-relevant residues, here we apply BCD with sodium hydroxide at two catalyst loadings and temperatures of 270, 300, and 330 °C for 40 min to residual biomass from typical and emerging biochemical conversion processes. We obtained mass balances for each fraction from BCD, and characterized the resulting aqueous and solid residues using gel permeation chromatography, NMR, and GC–MS. When taken together, these results indicate that a significant fraction (45–78%) of the starting lignin-rich material can be depolymerized to low molecular weight, water-soluble species. The yield of the aqueous solublemore » fraction depends significantly on biomass processing method used prior to BCD. Namely, dilute acid pretreatment results in lower water-soluble yields compared to biomass processing that involves no acid pretreatment. We also find that the BCD product selectivity can be tuned with temperature to give higher yields of methoxyphenols at lower temperature, and a higher relative content of benzenediols with a greater extent of alkylation on the aromatic rings at higher temperature. Our study shows that residual, lignin-rich biomass produced from conventional and emerging biochemical conversion processes can be depolymerized with sodium hydroxide to produce significant yields of low molecular weight aromatics that potentially can be upgraded to fuels or chemicals.« less
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  1. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2168-0485
Grant/Contract Number:
Published Article
Journal Name:
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 4; Journal Issue: 3; Related Information: ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering; Journal ID: ISSN 2168-0485
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (EE-3B)
Country of Publication:
United States
37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANAYLYTICAL CHEMISTRY; dilute acid pretreatment; biochemical conversion program; deacetylation; Kraft lignin; lignin valorization; lignin depolymerization
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1241512