93. Carboxylic acids production via electrochemical depolymerization of lignin

Davide Di Marino, Tim Jestel, Caroline Marks, Jörn Viell, Malte Blindert, Stefanie M.A. Kriescher, Antje C. Spiess, Matthias Wessling, ChemElectroChem, (2018) DOI: 10.1002/celc.201801676

Facing the challenge of lignin valorization is one of the unsolved key‐steps for a sustainable and economically feasible biorefinery. Several processes were developed with the aim of producing value‐added compounds from lignin. Thermal, enzymatic and catalytic processes represent common techniques for lignin valorization. However, expensive catalysts or enzymes and harsh conditions hampered the implementation of these methodologies on an industrial scale. Here, we propose the utilization of a simple “swiss‐roll” electrochemical reactor for the production of valuable carboxylic acids. We showcase that production of phenolic compounds, such as vanillin, is hindered by the electrochemical mechanism. Additionally, electrochemical stability experiments of possible products showed high reactivity of vanillin against the low reactivity of mono‐ and dicarboxylic acids. Simultaneously, the electrochemical process leads to stable carboxylic acids with high yields of 6.4, 26.8 and 4.2% for oxalic, formic and acetic acids respectively, therefore representing a competitive alternative to catalytic and hydrothermal degradation process for the production of carboxylic acids.