(407b) Breaking the Barriers in Lignin Upgrading Using a Catalytic Funneling Strategy

The conversion of lignin into fuels and chemicals is an ongoing and relevant challenge to reduce both humanity’s collective carbon footprint and demand for fossil fuels, as well as to improve the economic viability of biorefining. Most conversion strategies hinge on either reductive or oxidative pathways to cleavage the ether linkages naturally present in the lignin polymer, resulting in a wide product distribution and limiting the yields of valuable monomers. The prohibitive cost of complex separations is a main factor for the lack of an efficient process for valorizing lignin. In this talk, I will present our “catalytic funneling” approach to upgrade lignin. Specifically, I will present our collective efforts over the past few years to develop strategies to transform lignin into a handful of chemical precursors in high yields for use as direct and functional replacements of valuable molecules. Our approach combines rigorous kinetic studies with advanced catalyst synthesis strategies and reactor engineering to generate new insights into the underpinnings of lignin depolymerization, as well as new materials capable of selective C-O and C-C bond activation in complex reaction media.