A molecular motor from lignocellulose†
Lignin is the largest natural source of functionalized aromatics on the planet, therefore exploiting its inherent structural features for the synthesis of aromatic products is a timely and ambitious goal. While the recently developed lignin depolymerization strategies gave rise to well-defined aromatic platform chemicals, the diversification of these structures, especially toward high-end applications is still poorly addressed. Molecular motors and switches have found widespread application in many important areas such as targeted drug delivery systems, responsive coatings for self-healing surfaces, paints and resins or muscles for soft robotics. They typically comprise a functionalized aromatic backbone, yet their synthesis from lignin has not been considered before. In this contribution, we showcase the synthesis of a novel light-driven unidirectional molecular motor from the specific aromatic platform chemical 4-(3-hydroxypropyl)-2,6-dimethoxyphenol (dihydrosynapyl alcohol) that can be directly obtained from lignocellulose via a reductive catalytic fractionation strategy. The synthetic path takes into account the principles of green chemistry and aims to maintain the intrinsic functionality of the lignin-derived platform molecule.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2022 Green Chemistry Hot Articles