Redox Catalysis Facilitates Lignin Depolymerization

Corey Stephenson shows how redox catalysis facilitates lignin depolymerization.

The laboratory of Professor Corey Stephenson at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA) has had an interest in lignin depolymerization since 2014. According to Corey Stephenson there were two main reasons that initially attracted their attention towards lignin.

On the one hand, there is its abundance and unique aromatic backbone, which makes it an exceptional renewable source for small aromatic chemicals. On the other hand there are only few examples of selective methodologies found in the literature regarding its depolymerization, a majority of them employing harsh conditions due to its recalcitrant nature. He added: “Since the major interest of my laboratory focuses on harnessing the energy of visible light, we saw the opportunity of using photoredox catalysis to selectively cleave the ß-O–4 bonds present in the lignin backbone, a methodology that proved to be exceptionally robust for lignin model systems.

However, a prior oxidation step was required to achieve this fragmentation, which prompted us to search for alternative oxidation methodologies.” Such a method is presented in the present ACS Central Science publication.”

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