Masters Thesis

Oxidative Cleavage of Lignin Model Compounds Using Vanadium Catalysts

In the modern world, petrochemicals are the essential building blocks for everyday products. Although a heavily relied on chemical source, it is finite. As the ever-growing demand for petroleum- derived chemicals rise, other avenues are being considered for alternative carbon sources. Lignin is nature’s most abundant source for aromatic compounds, rendering it very promising resource for renewable chemical feedstock. Lignin’s methoxy substituted phenyl groups and its complex structure makes it a challenge to selectively break it down to desired aromatic compounds. Numerous studies have shown the use of transition metals in catalyzing the cleavage of lignin. One promising approach for degrading lignin model compounds involves homogeneous catalysts for low temperature (<150 oC) oxidative cleavage of β-O-4 linkage. Vanadium in general was shown to have superior oxidative properties. In this study, various vanadium catalysts are used to facilitate an oxidative cleavage of a simple lignin model compound. We are interested in understanding how derivatizing the catalyst’s electronic and steric properties would affect its selectivity, specificity and catalytic activity.