American Chemical Society
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Selective Conversion of Lignin-Derivable 4‑Alkylguaiacols to 4‑Alkylcyclohexanols over Noble and Non-Noble-Metal Catalysts

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-09-06, 00:00 authored by Wouter Schutyser, Gil Van den Bossche, Anton Raaffels, Sander Van den Bosch, Steven-Friso Koelewijn, Tom Renders, Bert F. Sels
Recent lignin-first catalytic lignocellulosic biorefineries produce large quantities of two potential platform chemicals, 4-n-propylguaiacol (PG) and 4-n-propylsyringol. Because conversion into 4-n-propylcyclohexanol (PCol), a precursor for novel polymer building blocks, presents a promising valorization route, reductive demethoxylation of PG was examined here in the liquid-phase over three commercial hydrogenation catalysts, viz. 5 wt % Ru/C, 5 wt % Pd/C and 65 wt % Ni/SiO2–Al2O3, at elevated temperatures ranging from 200 to 300 °C under hydrogen atmosphere. Kinetic profiles suggest two parallel conversion pathways: Pathway I involves PG hydrogenation to 4-n-propyl-2-methoxycyclohexanol (PMCol), followed by its demethoxylation to PCol, whereas Pathway II constitutes PG hydrodemethoxylation to 4-n-propylphenol (PPh), followed by its hydrogenation into PCol. The slowest step in the catalytic formation of PCol is the reductive methoxy removal from PMCol. Moreover, under the applied reaction conditions, PCol may react further into hydrocarbons. The following criteria are therefore essential to reach a high PCol yield: (i) catalytic pathway II is preferred as this route does not involve stable intermediates; (ii) reactivity of PMCol should be higher than that of PCol, and (iii) the overall carbon balance should be high. Both the catalyst type and the reaction conditions have a substantial impact on the PCol yield. Only the commercial Ni catalyst meets the three criteria, provided the reaction is performed at 250 °C in hexadecane. Additional advantages of this solvent choice are a high boiling point (low operational pressure in closed reactor systems), high solubility of PG and derived products, high thermal, reductive stability, and easy derivability from fatty biomass feedstock. This Ni catalyst also showed an excellent stability in recycling runs and is capable of converting highly concentrated (up to 20 wt %) PG in hexadecane. Ru and Pd on carbon showed a low PCol yield, as they are not conform the three criteria. Low hydrogen pressure favors Pathway II, resulting in a very high PCol yield of 85% at 10 bar. Catalytic conversion of guaiacol, 4-methyl- and 4-ethylguaiacol in comparable circumstances showed similarly high yields of the corresponding cyclohexanols.