Base-catalysed depolymerisation of lignin using sodium hydroxide has been shown to be an effective approach towards exploiting industrial (technical) lignins within the pulp and paper industry. In the present work, a pine kraft lignin (Indulin AT) which is precipitated from black liquor of linerboard-grade pulp was depolymerised via base catalysis to produce low-molecular-mass aromatics without any organic solvent/capping agent in a continuous-flow reactor setup for the first time. The catalytic conversion of lignin was performed/screened at temperatures varying from 170 to 250 °C, using NaOH/lignin weight ratio ≈ 1 with 5 wt% lignin solids loadings for residence times of 1, 2 and 4 min, respectively, with comprehensive characterisation of substrate and produced reaction mixtures. The products were characterised using size exclusion chromatography (SEC), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and supercritical fluid chromatography-diode array detector-tandem mass spectrometry (SFC-MS). The optimum operating conditions for such depolymerisation appeared to be at 240 °C and 30 h−1, yielding the highest concentration of low-molecular-weight phenolics below the coking point. It was also found that the depolymerised lignin products exhibited better chemical stability during long-term storage at lower temperatures (~ 4 °C).
- Paper, Pulp and Fiber Technology