Photocatalytic Cleavage of Aryl Ether in Modified Lignin to Non-phenolic Aromatics

Column: Research    Tag: Biomass conversion; Photocatalysis

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.