Selective catalytic transformation of lignin with guaiacol as the only liquid product†
Guaiacol is an important feedstock for producing various high-value chemicals. However, the current production route of guaiacol relies heavily on fossil resources. Using lignin as a cheap and renewable feedstock to selectively produce guaiacol has great potential, but it is a challenge because of its heterogeneity and inert reactivity. Herein, we discovered that La(OTf)3 could catalyze the transformation of lignin with guaiacol as the only liquid product. In the reaction, La(OTf)3 catalyzed the hydrolysis of lignin ether linkages to form alkyl-syringol and alkyl-guaiacol, which further underwent decarbonization and demethoxylation to produce guaiacol with a yield of up to 25.5 wt%, and the remaining residue was solid. In the scale-up experiment, the isolated yield of guaiacol reached up to 21.2 wt%. To our knowledge, this is the first work to produce pure guaiacol selectively from lignin. The bio-guaiacol may be considered as a platform to promote lignin utilization.