Project List Quenching of Reactive Intermediates During Mechanochemical Depolymerization of Lignin

Quenching of Reactive Intermediates During Mechanochemical Depolymerization of Lignin

Context
Wood chips are turned into pulp, which is used to make paper, through a cooking process. In this process, the lignin that was part of the wood is removed and typically burned to power the plant.

Problem
Lignin makes up around 35% of wood, so we’re basically burning away a third of the material we started with. Because lignin is a polymer, we could break it down to make smaller molecules that might be more useful. However, lignin also doesn’t dissolve very well in most solvents, so finding a solution-based catalyst to break down lignin has been a challenge.

Our Solution
Our research group used a ball mill to grind together a solid catalyst with powdered lignin to facilitate the breaking down of lignin molecules. We were able to publish our findings in a paper, where I contributed to sections of the published article.

Citation: Brittain, Alex D., Chrisandina, Natasha J., et al. “Quenching of reactive intermediates during mechanochemical depolymerization of lignin.” Catalysis Today (2017).

Image by Yogan, Kara.