Lignin Depolymerization with Nitrate-Intercalated Hydrotalcite Catalysts

Jacob Kruger, Nicholas Cleveland, Rui Katahira, Brenna Pleitner, Gregg Beckham, Tijs Lammens, Phillip Hamilton, Shuting Zhang, Mary Biddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus Citations


Hydrotalcites (HTCs) exhibit multiple adjustable parameters to tune catalytic activity, including interlayer anion composition, metal hydroxide layer composition, and catalyst preparation methods. Here, we report the influence of several of these parameters on β-O-4 bond scission in a lignin model dimer, 2-phenoxy-1-phenethanol (PE), to yield phenol and acetophenone. We find that the presence of both basic and NO3- anions in the interlayer increases the catalyst activity by 2-3-fold. In contrast, other anions or transition metals do not enhance catalytic activity in comparison to blank HTC. The catalyst is not active for C-C bond cleavage on lignin model dimers and has no effect on dimers without an α-OH group. Most importantly, the catalyst is highly active in the depolymerization of two process-relevant lignin substrates, producing a significant amount of low-molecular-weight aromatic species. The catalyst can be recycled until the NO3- anions are depleted, after which the activity can be restored by replenishing the NO3- reservoir and regenerating the hydrated HTC structure. These results demonstrate a route to selective lignin depolymerization in a heterogeneous system with an inexpensive, earth-abundant, commercially relevant, and easily regenerated catalyst.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1316-1328
Number of pages13
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 5 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-65864


  • catalyst recycle
  • catalyst regeneration
  • layered double hydroxide
  • lignin nitration
  • lignin valorization


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