Rhodium-terpyridine catalyzed redox-neutral depolymerization of lignin in water†
Simple rhodium terpyridine complexes were found to be suitable catalysts for the redox neutral cleavage of lignin in water. Apart from cleaving lignin model compounds into ketones and phenols, the catalytic system could also be applied to depolymerize dioxasolv lignin and lignocellulose, affording aromatic ketones as the major monomer products. The (hemi)cellulose components in the lignocellulose sample remain almost intact during lignin depolymerization, providing an example of a “lignin-first” process under mild conditions. Mechanistic studies suggest that the reaction proceeds via a rhodium catalyzed hydrogen autotransfer process.