(114a) Catalytic Lignin Valorization By Liquid Phase Reforming | AIChE

(114a) Catalytic Lignin Valorization By Liquid Phase Reforming


Bruijnincx, P. C. A. - Presenter, Utrecht University
Jongerius, A. L., Utrecht University
Zakzeski, J., Utrecht University
Copeland, J. R., Georgia Institute of Technology
Foo, G. S., Georgia Institute of Technology
Sievers, C., Georgia Institute of Technology
Weckhuysen, B. M., Utrecht University

Catalytic Lignin
Valorization by Liquid Phase Reforming

Anna L. Jongerius,1
Joseph Zakzeski,1 John R. Copeland,2 Guo Shiou Foo,2
Carsten Sievers,2Pieter C.A. Bruijnincx,1 and Bert M.

1 Inorganic Chemistry &
Catalysis, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science,
Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands

School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering,
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA


Lignocellulosic biomass is
becoming an increasingly important alternative resource for biofuels production.
Lignocellulosic biorefinery operations must produce chemicals as well as energy
vectors, however, in order to be competitive, making use of all the major components of
lignocellulose including lignin. Indeed, the aromatic lignin polymer
holds great potential for the sustainable production of renewable aromatics and
phenolics, to be used as chemical building blocks or
as fuel additives.[1] The catalytic valorization of
lignin is highly challenging, however, as a result of its recalcitrance and highly heterogeneous
nature. It is important to note in this respect that the structure of lignin
depends both on the plant species as well as on the biomass pretreatment process.
A generic method for catalytic lignin valorization for the production of
value-added aromatics or phenolics needs to address
issues with lignin solubility and agglomeration.

We previously reported on the aqueous phase reforming (APR) of lignin,[2] analogous to the APR of oxygenates such as glycerol and
sorbitol, for the co-production of hydrogen and aromatics. Lignin APR was
hampered by limited solubility of various lignins in
water and extensive solid formation by recondensation
under the hydrothermal conditions applied. 
Further improvements in the processing conditions of this lignin
valorization process were therefore desired in order to improve yields and
minimize recondensation. A simple switch to
ethanol/water as solvent for the catalytic conversion of lignin, now referred
to as liquid phase reforming (LPR), greatly improved solubilization,
prevented agglomeration and resulted in an significant increase in aromatic
monomer formation.[3]

Experimental details

Lignin solubilization and LPR
reactions were studied using a semi-batch 200 mL autoclave equipped with quartz
windows or a 40 mL Parr autoclave both equipped with a back-pressure regulator
set at 58 bar. A typical treatment involved lignin in a 1:1 H2O/ethanol
mixture heated to 498 K with 1 wt% Pt/Al2O3 and a
co-catalyst added for the LPR reactions. Catalyst stability was studied by XRD,
27Al NMR, N2 physisorption, TEM
and TGA analysis.

Results and Discussion

Different types of lignin,
i.e. kraft, organosolv and
bagasse lignin, can be readily dissolved in ethanol/water
mixtures at moderate temperatures without formation of agglomerates. Lignin solubilization is accompanied by a reduction of the
molecular weight of the dissolved lignins due to
cleavage of the lignin ether linkages, as shown by quantitative 2D HSQC NMR and
GPC analysis (Figure 1). The enhanced dissolution of the various lignins, including kraft, organosolv, bagasse lignin, in ethanol/water mixtures at
elevated temperatures, facilitates improved catalytic depolymerization
with supported metal catalysts (Figure 2).


Figure 1. Influence of solubilization of kraft and organosolv in
ethanol/water on Mw and extent of cleavage of selected linkages as
determined by 2D HSQC NMR.

In the presence of a 1 wt% Pt/Al2O3and either an acid or a base as co-catalyst, yields of up to 17% of
isolated monomeric aromatics can be obtained, which is an order of magnitude
higher than previously obtained with lignin APR. The yield and type of mono-aromatics
is found to depend on the type of lignin, process conditions and catalyst used.
The stability of the Pt/Al2O3 catalyst in ethanol/water
under the typical liquid phase reforming conditions is studied in the presence
of various aromatics and lignin itself. Boehmite formation and Pt particle
sintering (typically observed under hydrothermal conditions [4]) was observed
in ethanol/water, but was found to be greatly suppressed by the presence of
lignin (Figure 2). [5]

Figure 2. left: LPR results in improved monomer yield; right:
influence of aromatics and lignin on catalyst stability (expressed as extent of
boehmite formation).



The generic lignin solubilization
holds potential for catalytic depolymerization by
heterogeneous catalysts, as illustrated by the liquid phase reforming process.
The explored route can thus contribute to the better integration of lignin in
future biorefinery operations. The products obtained by liquid phase processing
can, for instance, be subjected to a subsequent hydrodeoxygenation
step to lower the oxygen content and reduce the complexity of the product


J. Zakzeski,
P.C.A. Bruijnincx, A.L. Jongerius, B.M. Weckhuysen, Chem. Rev. 2010,
110, 3552.

J. Zakzeski, B.M. Weckhuysen, ChemSusChem 2011, 4, 369.

J. Zakzeski, A.L. Jongerius, P.C.A. Bruijnincx, B.M.
Weckhuysen, ChemSusChem 2012, 5, 1602.

R.M. Ravenelle, J.R. Copeland,
W.G. Kim, J.C. Crittenden, C. Sievers, ACS Catal. 2011, 1, 552.

5.      A.L. Jongerius, J.R. Copeland, G. S. Foo, J.P. Hofmann,
P.C.A. Bruijnincx, C. Sievers, B.M. Weckhuysen, ACS Catal. 2013,
3, 464.