- Catalytic cleavage of lignin b-O-4 link mimics using copper on alumina and magnesia-alumina
- Green Chemistry
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Copper on γ-alumina and on mixed magnesia-alumina, Cu/MgO-Al2O3, catalyse the hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of β-O-4 lignin-type dimers, giving valuable aromatics. The typical selectivity to phenol is as high as 20%. By changing the support's acidity we can modify the dispersion of copper. Interestingly, more HDO occurs with larger copper agglomerates than with finely dispersed particles. The presence of copper also increases the selectivity of the HDO cleavage. Three different pathways are hypothesized for the reaction on the catalyst surface. Thus, copper activates ketones more and especially more selective towards cleavage than their corresponding alcohols. DFT calculations of bond dissociation energies correlate well with this experimental observation. Excitingly, ethylbenzene is formed in proportional amounts to phenol, showing that these catalysts can reduce the oxygen content of lignin-type product streams. Considering its low price and ready availability, we conclude that copper on alumina is a promising alternative catalyst for lignin depolymerization.
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