An “ideal lignin” facilitates full biomass utilization


Lignin, a major component of lignocellulosic biomass, is crucial to plant growth and development but is a major impediment to efficient biomass utilization in various processes. Valorizing lignin is increasingly realized as being essential. However, rapid condensation of lignin during acidic extraction leads to the formation of recalcitrant condensed units that, along with similar units and structural heterogeneity in native lignin, drastically limits product yield and selectivity. Catechyl lignin (C-lignin), which is essentially a benzodioxane homopolymer without condensed units, might represent an ideal lignin for valorization, as it circumvents these issues. We discovered that C-lignin is highly acid-resistant. Hydrogenolysis of C-lignin resulted in the cleavage of all benzodioxane structures to produce catechyl-type monomers in near-quantitative yield with a selectivity of 90% to a single monomer.