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Ruthenium ion catalysed C–C bond activation in lignin model compounds – towards lignin depolymerisation

Guadix-Montero, Susana, Sainna, Mala A., Jin, Jiangpeiyun, Reynolds, Jack, Forsythe, W. Graham, Sheldrake, Gary N., Willock, David ORCID: and Meenakshisundaram, Sankar ORCID: 2023. Ruthenium ion catalysed C–C bond activation in lignin model compounds – towards lignin depolymerisation. Catalysis Science & Technology 13 , pp. 5912-5923. 10.1039/d3cy00076a

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Lignin is the most abundant renewable feedstock to produce aromatic chemicals, however its depolymerisation involves the breaking of several C–O and C–C inter-unit linkages that connect smaller aromatic units that are present in lignin. Several strategies have been reported for the cleavage of the C–O inter-unit linkages in lignin. However, till today, only a few methodologies have been reported for the effective breaking or the conversion of the recalcitrant C–C inter unit linkages in lignin. Here we report the ruthenium ion catalysed oxidative methodology as an effective system to activate or convert the most recalcitrant inter unit linkages such as β-5 and 5–5′ present in lignin. Initially, we used biphenyl as a model compound to study the effectiveness of the RICO methodology to activate the 5–5′ C–C linkage. After 4 h reaction at 22 °C, we achieved a 30% conversion with 75% selectivity towards benzoic acid and phenyl glyoxal as the minor product. To the best of our knowledge this is the first ever oxidative activation of the C–C bond that connects the two phenyl rings in biphenyl. DFT calculation revealed that the RuO4 forms a [3 + 2] adduct with one of the aromatic C–C bonds resulting in the opening of the phenyl ring. Biphenyl conversion could be increased by increasing the amount of oxidant; however, this is accompanied by a reduction in the carbon balance because of the formation of CO2 and other unknown products. We extended this RICO methodology for the oxidative depolymerisation of lignin model hexamer containing β-5, 5–5′ and β-O-4 linkages. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the reaction mixture were done using 1H, 13C NMR spectroscopy methods along with GC-MS and Gel Permeation Chromatographic (GPC) methods. Advanced 2D NMR spectroscopic methods such as HSQC, HMBC and 31P NMR spectroscopy after phosphitylation of the mixture were employed to quantitatively analyse the conversion of the β-5, 5–5′ and β-O-4 linkages and to identify the products. After 30 min, >90% of the 5–5′ and linkages and >80% of the β-5′ are converted with this methodology. This is the first report on the conversion of the 5–5′ linkage in lignin model hexamer.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Chemistry
Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Start Date: 2023-08-25
Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry
ISSN: 2044-4753
Funders: BBSRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 September 2023
Date of Acceptance: 16 August 2023
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2023 10:39

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