Catalytic alcoholysis of alkaline extracted lignin for the production of aromatic esters over SO42−/ZrO2-ATP
An efficient process for the depolymerization of alkaline extracted lignin (AEL) using attapulgite (ATP)-supported solid catalysts in ethanol was developed in this work. Different ATP-supported catalysts were prepared and used to catalyze the depolymerization of the lignin AEL. The results demonstrated that the addition of ATP-supported catalysts was favorable for controlling the distribution of valuable depolymerization products. The optimal solid catalyst SO42−/ZrO2-ATP (Cat 2) exhibited high catalytic activity and selectivity, which showed a 78.6% conversion of AEL and a 29.4% selectivity to ethyl ferulate (ethyl 4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamate) with a catalyst/AEL ratio of 1 : 1 at 200 °C for 120 min. The catalyst could be reused and its catalytic activity did not obviously decreased after 6 successive runs. Particularly, a plausible mechanism involving esterification, hydrogenation, and dehydration for the production of aromatic esters from AEL depolymerization over SO42−/ZrO2-ATP in ethanol was also proposed.