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Toward a hydrogen‐free reductive catalytic fractionation of wheat straw biomass

Von Wiley-VCH zur Verfügung gestellt

The reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) of lignocellulosic biomass is an attractive method for the conversion of lignin toward valuable low-molecular weight aromatics. A limitation to the upscaling of such technology is represented by the use of pressurized hydrogen gas. Here, the role of hydrogen gas within the RCF of wheat straw biomass is investigated. The use of H2 is shown to enhance lignin depolymerization, by virtue of an improved hydrogenolysis and hydrogenation of lignin fragments, with a yield of phenolic monomers that increased from ~12 wt% of acid-insoluble lignin in the initial biomass under inert atmosphere, up to ~25 wt% under H2 (in methanol, at 250 °C, with Ru/C). The adoption of methanol, ethanol or isopropanol as hydrogen-donor solvents was also investigated in the absence of H2. Ethanol was found to give the highest yield of monophenolics (up to ~20 wt%) owing to a better balance between solvolysis, hydrogenolysis, and hydrogenation of lignin. Nevertheless, a substantial loss of the carbohydrate fraction was observed. The use of a lower temperature (200 °C) in combination with H3PO4 resulted in an improved recovery of cellulose in the pulp and in the solubilization of hemicellulose and lignin, with the formation of monosaccharides (~14 wt% of polysaccharides in the initial biomass) and phenolic monomers (up to 18 wt%, in the absence of H2). Overall, a tradeoff exists between the removal of H2 from the process and the production of low-MW phenolics during RCF.

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