Visible-light-induced oxidative lignin C–C bond cleavage to aldehydes using vanadium catalysts

Column: Research    Tag: Biomass conversion; Photocatalysis

Lignin is the largest carrier of aromatics on earth, and its depolymerization can afford value-added aromatic products. Direct cleavage of the C–C bonds in lignin linkages is significant, but it is challenging to obtain low-molecular-weight aromatic monomers. Herein, 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.