Lignin depolymerisation is traditionally facilitated with homogeneous acid or alkaline catalysts. Given the effectiveness of homogeneous basic catalysts for lignin depolymerisation, here, heterogeneous solid-base catalysts are screened for C-O bond cleavage using a model compound that exhibits a common aryl-ether linkage in lignin. Hydrotalcite (HTC), a layered double hydroxide (LDH), is used as a support material as it readily harbours hydroxide anions in the brucite-like layers, which are hypothesised to participate in catalysis. A 5 wt% Ni/HTC catalyst is particularly effective at C-O bond cleavage of a model dimer at 270 °C without nickel reduction, yielding products from C-O bond cleavage identical to those derived from a base-catalysed mechanism. The 5% Ni-HTC catalyst is shown to depolymerise two types of biomass-derived lignin, namely Organosolv and ball-milled lignin, which produces alkyl-aromatic products. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy show that the nickel is well dispersed and converts to a mixed valence nickel oxide upon loading onto the HTC support. The structure of the catalyst was characterised by scanning and transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction, which demonstrates partial dehydration upon reaction, concomitant with a base-catalysed mechanism employing hydroxide for C-O bond cleavage. However, the reaction does not alter the overall catalyst microstructure, and nickel does not appreciably leach from the catalyst. This study demonstrates that nickel oxide on a solid-basic support can function as an effective lignin depolymerisation catalyst without the need for external hydrogen and reduced metal, and suggests that LDHs offer a novel, active support in multifunctional catalyst applications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry