Isomer-dependent catalytic pyrolysis mechanism of the lignin model compounds catechol, resorcinol and hydroquinone†
The catalytic pyrolysis mechanism of the initial lignin depolymerization products will help us develop biomass valorization strategies. How does isomerism influence reactivity, product formation, selectivities, and side reactions? By using imaging photoelectron photoion coincidence (iPEPICO) spectroscopy with synchrotron radiation, we reveal initial, short-lived reactive intermediates driving benzenediol catalytic pyrolysis over H-ZSM-5 catalyst. The detailed reaction mechanism unveils new pathways leading to the most important products and intermediates. Thanks to the two vicinal hydroxyl groups, catechol (o-benzenediol) is readily dehydrated to form fulvenone, a reactive ketene intermediate, and exhibits the highest reactivity. Fulvenone is hydrogenated on the catalyst surface to phenol or is decarbonylated to produce cyclopentadiene. Hydroquinone (p-benzenediol) mostly dehydrogenates to produce p-benzoquinone. Resorcinol, m-benzenediol, is the most stable isomer, because dehydration and dehydrogenation both involve biradicals owing to the meta position of the hydroxyl groups and are unfavorable. The three isomers may also interconvert in a minor reaction channel, which yields small amounts of cyclopentadiene and phenol via dehydroxylation and decarbonylation. We propose a generalized reaction mechanism for benzenediols in lignin catalytic pyrolysis and provide detailed mechanistic insights on how isomerism influences conversion and product formation. The mechanism accounts for processes ranging from decomposition reactions to molecular growth by initial polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) formation steps to yield, e.g., naphthalene. The latter involves a Diels–Alder dimerization of cyclopentadiene, isomerization, and dehydrogenation.