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J Org Chem. 2000 Mar 10;65(5):1376-89.

Flash vacuum pyrolysis of methoxy-substituted lignin model compounds.

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  • 1Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6197, USA.


The flash vacuum pyrolysis (FVP) of methoxy-substituted beta-O-4 lignin model compounds has been studied at 500 degrees C to provide mechanistic insight into the primary reaction pathways that occur under conditions of fast pyrolysis. FVP of PhCH(2)CH(2)OPh (PPE), a model of the dominant beta-O-4 linkage in lignin, proceeds by C-O and C-C cleavage, in a 37:1 ratio, to produce styrene plus phenol as the dominant products and minor amounts of toluene, bibenzyl, and benzaldehyde. From the deuterium isotope effect in the FVP of PhCD(2)CH(2)OPh, it was shown that C-O cleavage occurs by homolysis and by 1,2-elimination in a ratio of 1.4:1, respectively. Methoxy substituents enhance the homolysis of the beta-O-4 linkage, relative to PPE, in o-CH(3)O-C(6)H(4)OCH(2)CH(2)Ph (o-CH(3)O-PPE) and (o-CH(3)O)(2)-C(6)H(3)OCH(2)CH(2)Ph ((o-CH(3)O)(2)-PPE) by a factor of 7.4 and 21, respectively. The methoxy-substituted phenoxy radicals undergo a complex series of reactions, which are dominated by 1,5-, 1,6-, and 1,4-intramolecular hydrogen abstraction, rearrangement, and beta-scission reactions. In the FVP of o-CH(3)O-PPE, the dominant product, salicylaldehyde, forms from the methoxyphenoxy radical by a 1,5-hydrogen shift to form 2-hydroxyphenoxymethyl radical, 1,2-phenyl shift, and beta-scission of a hydrogen atom. The 2-hydroxyphenoxymethyl radical can also cleave to form formaldehyde and phenol in which the ratio of 1, 2-phenyl shift to beta-scission is ca. 4:1. In the FVP of o-CH(3)O-PPE and (o-CH(3)O)(2)-PPE, products (ca. 20 mol %) are also formed by C-O homolysis of the methoxy group. The resulting phenoxy radicals undergo 1,5- and 1,6-hydrogen shifts in a ratio of ca. 2:1 to the aliphatic or benzylic carbon, respectively, of the phenethyl chain. In the FVP of (o-CH(3)O)(2)-PPE, o-cresol was the dominant product. It was formed by decomposition of 2-hydroxy-3-hydroxymethylbenzaldehyde and 2-hydroxybenzyl alcohol, which are formed from a complex series of reactions from the 2, 6-dimethoxyphenoxy radical. The key step in this reaction sequence was the rapid 1,5-hydrogen shift from 2-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyloxy radical to 2-hydroxymethyl-6-methoxyphenoxy radical before beta-scission of a hydrogen atom to give the substituted benzaldehyde. The 2-hydroxybenzyl alcohols rapidly decompose under the reaction conditions to o-benzoquinone methide and pick up hydrogen from the reactor walls to form o-cresol.

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