Yuan Kou at Peking University in Beijing, China, and his team have come up with a lignin breakdown reaction that more reliably produces the alkanes and alcohols needed for biofuels. The yield is twice as high as previous work.
Under ideal conditions, it is theoretically possible to produce monomers and dimers in yields of 44 to 56 weight % (wt%) and 28-29 wt% respectively. Weight % is the fraction of the solution's weight that is composed of either monomers or dimers.
the researchers' practical yields approached those theoretical ideals. They produced monomer yields of 45 wt% and dimer yields of 12 wt% – about twice what has previously been achieved.
"For the first time, we have produced alkanes, the main component of gasoline and diesel, from lignin, and biomethanol becomes available," says Yan.
"A large percentage of the starting material is converted into useful products," she adds. "But this work is still in its infancy so other aspects related to economic issue will be evaluated in the near future."