ELECTROCHEMICAL CONVERSION OF LIGNINDERIVED POLYMERIC MATERIALS TO VALUABLE CHEMICALS

Period of Performance: 01/01/1991 - 12/31/1991

$142K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Lynntech, Inc.
COLLEGE STATION, TX 77845
Principal Investigator

Abstract

BIOMASS MATERIALS, DERIVED MAINLY FROM AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY BYPRODUCS BIOMASS MATERIALS, DERIVED MAINLY FROM AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY BYPRODUCTS, REPRESENT A LARGE SOURCE OF VALUABLE ORGANIC CHEMICAL FEEDSTOCKS. FOR UTILIZATION OF BIOMASS TO BE ECONOMICALLY ATTRACTIVE, ALL THE MAJOR POLYMERIC COMPONENTS OF IT (CELLULOSE, HEMICELLULOSE AND LIGNIN) MUST BE CAPABLE OF BEING DEGRADED. THE LIGNIN COMPONENT OF BIOMASS IS RELATIVELY NONDEGRADED BY ALL OF THE CHEMICAL OR BIO-CHEMICAL APPROACHES CONSIDERED AT PRESENT BIOMASS MATERIALS, DERIVED MAINLY FROM AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY BYPRODUCTS, REPRESENT A LARGE SOURCE OF VALUABLE ORGANIC CHEMICAL FEEDSTOCKS. FOR UTILIZATION OF BIOMASS TO BE ECONOMICALLY ATTRACTIVE, ALL THE MAJOR POLYMERIC COMPONENTS OF IT (CELLULOSE, HEMICELLULOSE AND LIGNIN) MUST BE CAPABLE OF BEING DEGRADED. THE LIGNIN COMPONENT OF BIOMASS IS RELATIVELY NONDEGRADED BY ALL OF THE CHEMICAL OR BIO-CHEMICAL APPROACHES CONSIDERED AT PRESENT FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ORGANIC CHEMICALS AND/OR FUELS FROM LIGNOCELLULOSIC MATERIALS. A NEW ELCTROCHEMICALLY BASED PROCESS IS PROPOSED WHICH HAS THE UNIQUE ADVANTAGE COMPARED TO CHEMICAL PROCESSES, THAT SOME, OR ALL, OF THE FREE ENERGYNECESSARY TO FORCE THE POLYMER DEGRADATIONS DESIRED CAN BE SUPPLIED IN THE FORM OF ELECTROCHEMICAL ENERGY UNDER MILD CONDITIONS, GIVING RISE TO INCREASED SELECTIVE FORMATION OF ORGANICPRODUCTS. THE PROPOSED TECHNICAL APPROACH HAS FOR ITS FOUNDATION EARLIER WORK ON THE DEGRADATION OF THE MACROMOLECULAR STRUCTURE OF COAL. THE PROCESS WILL GIVE RISE TO THE SIMULTANEOUS PRODUCTION OF ORGANIC CHEMICALS FROM LIGNIN AND HYDROGEN GAS FROM WATER. CONSTRUCTION OF ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTORS, PREPARATION AND STABILITY TESTING OF ELECTROCATALYTIC ELECTRODES, ELECTROCHEMICAL OXIDATIVE DEGRADATION OF LIGNOSULFATES AND THE SEPARATION, IDENTIFICATION AND QUANTIFICATION OF ORGANIC COMPOUNDS PRODUCED ON ELECTROLYZING LIGNIN-CONTAINING SOLUTIONS COMPRISE THE RESEARCH TASKS TO BE COMPLETED. THE PRELIMINARY ANTICIPATED RESULT OF THE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IS THE CREATION OF A NON-POLLUTING ELECTROCHEMICALLY BASED TECHNOLOGY, OPERATING UNDER MILD REACTION CONDITIONS AND CAPABLE OF DEGRADING LIGNIN-DERIVED MATERIALS (AND RELATED SUBSTANCES) TO LOW MOLECULAR WEIGHT ORGANIC COMPOUNDS THAT HAVE USE AS CHEMICAL FEEDSTOCKS IN THE CHEMICAL PROCESSING INDUSTRIES. POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS CAN BE FOUND IN AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY RELATED INDUSTRIES, IN PARTICULAR, THE PULP AND PAPER AND THE FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRIES.