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Kraft Lignin Chain Extension Chemistry via Propargylation, Oxidative Coupling, and Claisen Rearrangement

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journal contribution
posted on 14.10.2013, 00:00 by Sanghamitra Sen, Hasan Sadeghifar, Dimitris S. Argyropoulos
Despite its aromatic and polymeric nature, the heterogeneous, stochastic, and reactive characteristics of softwood kraft lignin seriously limit its potential for thermoplastic applications. Our continuing efforts toward creating thermoplastic lignin polymers are now focused at exploring propargylation derivatization chemistry and its potential as a versatile novel route for the eventual utilization of technical lignins with a significant amount of molecular control. To do this, we initially report the systematic propargylation of softwood kraft lignin. The synthesized derivatives were extensively characterized with thermal methods (DSC, TGA), 1H, 13C, and quantitative 31P NMR and IR spectroscopies. Further on, we explore the versatile nature of the lignin pendant propargyl groups by demonstrating two distinct chain extension chemistries; the solution-based, copper-mediated, oxidative coupling and the thermally induced, solid-state, Claissen rearrangement polymerization chemistries. Overall, we show that it is possible to modulate the reactivity of softwood kraft lignin via a combination of methylation and chain extension providing a rational means for the creation of higher molecular weight polymers with the potential for thermoplastic materials and carbon fibers with the desired control of structure–property relations.