Catalytic routes from lignin to useful products
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The conversion of switchgrass lignin, a renewable source for chemicals and fuels, is investigated using reactions such as depolymerization, hydrodeoxygenation and alkylation. First, the lignin is converted into oils containing phenol, substituted guaiacols and other smaller lignin fragments using formic acid and Pt/C through a batch process. A long reaction time was observed to crucial to yield oils with the highest fraction of lower molecular weight compounds with the lowest O/C and highest H/C molar ratio. Second, the zeolite catalyzed gas phase alkylation of phenol, a model compound for the lignin oil, with propylene was investigated. Zeolite pore topology and acid strength were shown to influence the selectivity for the target product, 2-isopropylphenol. This work shows that the conversion of lignin to useful products is possible and suggests some future work to consider before it can be implemented practically.