Low-Power Microwave Radiation-assisted Depolymerization of Ethanol Organosolv Lignin in Ethanol/Formic Acid Mixtures

Dengle Duan, Yunfeng Zhao, Liangliang Fan, Leilei Dai, Jiaqian Lv, Roger Ruan, Yunpu Wang, Yuhuan Liu


Ethanol organosolv lignin separated from bamboo was depolymerized by low-power microwave radiation (~80 W) using ethanol as a swelling agent and formic acid as a hydrogen donor solvent. After increasing the temperature from 100 to 200 °C, the total amount of phenolic compounds in the products increased from 8.1% to 40.8%, and both the weight average molecular weight (Mw) and number average molecular weight (Mn) of the products from the lignin depolymerization decreased. With extended reaction time from 20 to 60 min, the total amount of phenolic compounds and molecular weight did not remarkably change. In addition, Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy showed that oxidative fracture was the primary way that lignin depolymerized. The severity factor played an important role in converting lignin into small molecular substances, and the evaluation showed that the microwave temperature was more influential on the lignin depolymerization than the reaction time. Because depolymerization and repolymerization of fragments both occurred during the microwave radiation process, it is critical to inhibit repolymerization of degraded fragments for the efficient degradation of lignin. This study not only provides a theoretical basis for studying the mechanism of microwave-assisted lignin degradation but is also important for the determination of a cost-effective lignin depolymerization method.


Lignin; Low microwave radiation; Depolymerization; Ethanol; Formic acid

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