Supercritical Water-induced Lignin Decomposition Reactions: A Structural and Quantitative Study

Weikun Jiang, Gaojin Lyu, Shubin Wu, Lucian A. Lucia, Guihua Yang, Yu Liu


The use of supercritical water for the decomposition of lignin and evaluation of its influence on lignin decomposition and conversion to various products was the thrust of the current study. Poplar alkali lignin (AL), corncob-to-xylitol residue lignin (XRL), and cornstalk-to-ethanol residue lignin (ERL) were the lignin species studied because they constitute the main residual lignins available in the biomass refinery industry. The lignins were characterized by elementary analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FT-IR), phosphorus nuclear magnetic resonance (31P-NMR), and X-ray diffraction (XRD), and their hydrothermal depolymerization products were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC–MS). The results showed that the residual lignin is a potential source for valuable aromatics. The XRL had the best total phenolics yield, 140 mg/g, while AL had the lowest, 90 mg/g. The maximum yields of phenol (28.94 mg/g) and 4-ethylphenol (36.21 mg/g) were obtained from XRL depolymerization at 375 °C for 30 min, and the optimal yields of guaiacol (14.34 mg/g) and 2,6-dimethoxyphenol (15.67 mg/g) were achieved by AL at 375 °C for 30 min. The information here provides some insights toward developing selective biorefinery methods for lignin-to-organic products conversion processes.


Supercritical water; Lignin; Phenolics; Quantitative analysis

Full Text: PDF

Welcome to BioResources! This online, peer-reviewed journal is devoted to the science and engineering of biomaterials and chemicals from lignocellulosic sources for new end uses and new capabilities. The editors of BioResources would be very happy to assist you during the process of submitting or reviewing articles. Please note that logging in is required in order to submit or review articles. Martin A. Hubbe, (919) 513-3022,; Lucian A. Lucia, (919) 515-7707, URLs:; ISSN: 1930-2126