Research

We report the conversion of biomass-derived polyols and sugars into methanol and syngas (CO+H2) via UV light irradiation under room temperature, and the bio-syngas can be further used for the synthesis of methanol. The cellulose and even raw wood sawdust could be converted into methanol or syngas after hydrogenolysis or hydrolysis pretreatment. We find Cu dispersed on titanium oxide nanorod (TNR) rich in defects is effective for the selective C−C bond cleavage to methanol. Methanol is obtained from glycerol with a co-production of H2. A syngas with CO selectivity up to 90% in the gas phase is obtained via controlling the energy band structure of Cu/TNR.

Here we demonstrate that photogenerated radicals can be rapidly terminated by surface hydrogen species during photocatalytic decarboxylation of fatty acids on a hydrogen-rich surface that is constructed by the interactions between H2 and Pt/TiO2 catalyst, thereby greatly inhibiting oligomerization; Cn–1 alkanes can therefore be obtained from bio-derived C12–C18 fatty acids in high yields (≥90%) under mild conditions (30 °C, H2 pressure ≤0.2 MPa) and 365 nm light-emitting dode irradiation. Industrial low-value fatty acid mixtures (namely, soybean and tall oil fatty acids) can be transformed into alkane products in high yields (up to 95%). Our research introduces an efficient biomass-upgrading approach that is enabled by subtle control of the radical intermediate conversion on a heterogeneous surface.

We present our recent studies on lignin's catalytic conversion to aromatic chemicals. First, we introduce our research on protolignin depolymerization via a fragmentation–hydrogenolysis process in alcohol solvents. Then, focusing on the catalytic cleavage of lignin C–C and C–O bonds, we shed light on a recapitulative adjacent functional group modification (AFGM) strategy for the conversion of lignin models. AFGM strategy begins with the adjacent functional group modification of the target C–C or C–O bond to directly decrease the bond dissociation enthalpy (BDE) of targeted bonds or generate new substrate sites to introduce the cleavage reagent for further conversion. Subsequently, on the basis of these two concepts from AFGM, we summarize our strategies on lignin depolymerization, which highlight the effects of lignin structure, catalyst character, and reaction conditions on the efficiency of strategies.

Using vanadium catalysts under visible light, we selectively cleave the C–C bonds in β-1 and β-O-4 interlinkages occluded in lignin models and extracts by an oxidative protocol. Visible light irradiation triggered single electron transfer between the substrate and the catalyst, which further induced the selective Cα–Cβ bond cleavage and generated the final aromatic products through radical intermediates. Using this photocatalytic chemistry, the reactivity of lignin models and the selectivity of Cα–Cβ bond cleavage were significantly improved. More importantly, this protocol affords aromatic monomers through the fragmentation of organosolv lignins even at room temperature, indicating the potential of photocatalytic C–C bond cleavage of lignin linkages under ambient conditions.

Depolymerization of lignin meets the difficulty in cleaving the robust aryl ether bond. Herein, through installing an internal nucleophile in the β-O-4′ linkage, the selective cleavage of aryl ether was realized by the intramolecular substitution on aryl rings affording non-phenolic arylamine products. In particular, nitrogen-modified lignin models and lignin samples were employed to generate the iminyl radical under photocatalytic reduction, which acted as the internal nucleophile inducing aryl migration from O to the N atom. The following hydrolysis released primary arylamines and α-hydroxy ketones. Mechanism studies including electron spin resonance (ESR), fluorescence quenching experiments, and density functional theory (DFT) calculations proved the aryl migration pathway. This method enables access to non-phenolic arylamine products from lignin conversion.

We demonstrate the coproduction of H2 and diesel fuel precursors from lignocellulose-derived methylfurans via acceptorless dehydrogenative C−C coupling, using a Ru-doped ZnIn2S4 catalyst a​nd driven by visible light. With this chemistry, up to 1.04 g gcatalyst−1 h−1 of diesel fuel precursors (~41% of which are precursors of branched-chain alkanes) are produced with selectivity higher than 96%, together with 6.0  mmol gcatalyst−1 h−1 of H2. Subsequent hydrodeoxygenation reactions yield the desired diesel fuels comprising straight- and branched-chain alkanes. We suggest that Ru dopants, substituted in the position of indium ions in the ZnIn2S4 matrix, improve charge separation efficiency, thereby accelerating C−H activation for the coproduction of H2 and diesel fuel precursors.

Selective conversion of an aqueous solution of mixed oxygenates produced by biomass fermentation to a value-added single product is pivotal for commercially viable biomass utilization. However, the efficiency and selectivity of the transformation remains a great challenge. Herein, we present a strategy capable of transforming ~70% of carbon in an aqueous fermentation mixture (ABE: acetone–butanol–ethanol–water) to 4-heptanone (4-HPO), catalyzed by tin-doped ceria (Sn-ceria), with a selectivity aas high as 86%. Water (up to 27 wt%), detrimental to the reported catalysts for ABE conversion, was beneficial for producing 4-HPO, highlighting the feasibility of the current reaction system. In a 300 h continuous reaction over 2 wt% Sn-ceria catalyst, the average 4-HPO selectivity is maintained at 85% with 50% conversion and > 90% carbon balance. This strategy offers a route for highly efficient organic-carbon utilization, which can potentially integrate biological and

The increasing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are primarily driven by the rapid expansion of energy-intensive sectors such as the chemical industry. This work selects ethylene, one of the most important chemicals, as a model study to represent the low-carbon roadmap of chemical production. Four strategies improving the efficiency of fossil resource usage, developing the technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS), CO2 chemical conversion, and converting biomass resources into chemicals, are used to reduce CO2 emissions. A comprehensive analysis of the life cycle CO2 emissions of different ethylene production routes has been performed to compare their emission reduction potential. The results indicate that the BMTO (biomass to olefins via methanol-to-olefins) pathway releases the least CO2 (− 1.3 t CO2/t ethylene)

Quinazolinones, an important class of heterocyclic compounds, have been widely used in pharmaceuticals because of their biological activity. However, the efficient and economical synthesis of quinazolinones has remained a challenge. A novel synthetic approach has now been developed to produce quinazolinones from olefins, CO, and amines over heterogeneous Ru‐clusters/ceria catalyst in the absence of acids, bases, and oxidants. Furthermore, H2O is generated as the only by‐product. A series of quinazolinones with aromatic or non‐aromatic substituents can be obtained in yields of up to 99 %. The Ru‐clusters/ceria can be reused at least four times. The analysis of the E‐factor (environmental impact factor) for the synthesis of 2‐ethyl quinazolinone suggests that this system is more environmentally friendly than other processes reported previously.

Lignin is a renewable and abundant aromatic polymer found in plants. We herein propose a "cutting tail" methodology to produce phenol from lignin, which is achieved by combining Ru/CeO2 catalyst and CuCl2 oxidant via an oxidation–hydrogenation route. Phenol was obtained from separated poplar lignin with 13 wt % yield. Even raw biomass, such as poplar, birch, pine, peanut, bamboo willow, and straw, could be converted into phenol in 1–33 mg per gram of biomass.

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