Transition-metal catalyzed valorization of lignin: the key to a sustainable carbon-neutral future
The development of a sustainable, carbon-neutral biorefinery has emerged as a prominent scientific and engineering goal of the 21st century. As petroleum has become less accessible, biomass-based carbon sources have been investigated for utility in fuel production and commodity chemical manufacturing. One underutilized biomaterial is lignin; however, its highly crosslinked and randomly polymerized composition have rendered this biopolymer recalcitrant to existing chemical processing. More recently, insight into lignin's molecular structure has reinvigorated chemists to develop catalytic methods for lignin depolymerization. This review examines the development of transition-metal catalyzed reactions and the insights shared between the homogeneous and heterogeneous catalytic systems towards the ultimate goal of valorizing lignin to produce value-added products.