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Products that may be sourced from lignin include those similar to products obtained in a petroleum refinery. These potentially include phenol, xylene, toluene and benzene. In addition higher value chemicals such as vanillin, vanillic acid, sinapyl, coniferyl and p-coumaryl compounds may be isolated. These may be used as feedstocks for the production of polymers, dyes, resins and pharmaceutical products.

In particular the products generated from the lignin stream are more hydrophilic than those obtained from a conventional petroleum stream, owing to the highly oxygenated nature of the lignin polymer. The areas in which lignin can be applied occupy a broad spectrum. Applications include multi-polarity related products, materials, agro-chemicals, fine and bulk chemicals. Lignin has successfully been converted into high molecular weight chemicals; examples include the production of carbon fibers, polymer modifiers, adhesives and resins. Production of value-added low molecular weight compounds from lignin has also been achieved. However there is broad scope for further work in this area.

We have recently shown that two keto-alcohols shown in our Catalogue can be isolated following chemical depolymerisation of lignin. We have already shown a number of simple synthetic methods to convert these ketones to a handful of useful chemical building blocks.

keto alcohol modifcations

Figure 1: Synthetic conversions of keto-alcohols. For more information see [3]

The question now is what can we do with these ketones that is of use to our society. If you would like to join in this effort then we are happy to help you get started by providing you with 250 mg samples of these monomers free of charge (if you can pay the postage).

References

[1] http://www.ili-lignin.com/aboutlignin.php (accessed July 2015)

[2] J. Zakzeski, P. C. A. Bruijnincx, A. L. Jongerius, and B. M. Weckhuysen,  Chem. Rev., 2010,110, 3552–3599

[3] C.S. Lancefield., O. S. Ojo., F. Tran., N. J. Westwood., Isolation of Functionalized Phenolic Monomers through Selective Oxidation and C-O Bond Cleavage of the β-O-4 Linkages in Lignin, Angewandte Chemie, 127, 1, pp. 260-264, 2015.