Role of Peracetic Acid on the Disruption of Lignin Packing Structure and its Consequence on Lignin Depolymerisation

Ruoshui Ma, Udishnu Sanyal, Mariefel Olarte, Heather Job, Marie Swita, Susanne Jones, Pimphan Meyer, Sarah Burton, John Cort, Mark Bowden, Xiaowen Chen, Michael Wolcott, Xiao Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus Citations


Peracetic acid (PAA) is an effective oxidant capable of solubilising lignin and efficiently depolymerising it to selective phenolic compounds; however, the specific role by which PAA initiates the depolymerisation is still elusive. Herein, interaction between PAA and the lignin macromolecule and the consequent structural changes of the latter were studied by characterising the lignin packing structure and its associated changes during the oxidation process. While the lignin packing structure and its changes associated with the PAA-mediated oxidation were probed by X-ray diffraction, the impact of the PAA on different chemical functionalities present in the lignin structure was established by 13C and 1H-13C heteronuclear single-quantum coherence nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Combining the NMR spectroscopy results, and the product distribution, we conclude that the predominant reaction pathway for the oxidative depolymerisation of lignin with PAA is the Baeyer-Villiger oxidation of the ketone formed by the oxidation of the benzylic hydroxyl group adjacent to the β-O-4 linkage. The experimental evidence provided herein corroborated that PAA instigates oxygen insertion to the lignin macromolecule resulting in disruption of its packing structures and facilitates depolymerisation. We also investigated various metal oxide and mixed metal oxide catalysts to identify effective catalysts that further enhance the efficiency of PAA-mediated depolymerisation of lignin and produce selective monomeric phenolic compounds. Techno-economic analysis was also conducted to identify the key parameters associated with this oxidative process that need to be considered for possible commercial application.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8468-8479
Number of pages12
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number21
StatePublished - 7 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-82853


  • catalysts
  • ketones
  • macromolecules
  • metals
  • nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • oxidation
  • phenols
  • quantum theory


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