Hydrogenolysis Offers an Improved Method to Break Down Lignin

The Science

Explore lignin hydrogenolysis in a continuous-flow reactor as a method to improve depolymerization.

The Impact

  • Lignin hydrogenolysis in the continuous-flow reactor produced lignin-derived monomer yields around 29%, close to the calculated theoretical maximum for lignin from pretreated biomass.
  • Unreacted lignin retained its native structure, allowing material to be recycled through the reactor to minimize carbon loss into unusable compounds.
  • Combining a continuous-flow reactor with biomass treatment processes could enhance the yield and value of product streams from a biorefinery.


  • Evaluated the kinetics and reaction mechanisms of lignin hydrogenolysis in a continuous-flow reactor.
  • Optimized reaction parameters to increase monomer yield and suppress formation of unwanted byproducts.
  • Assessed hydrogenolysis of lignin isolated from poplar.


Li, Y. et al. “Kinetic and mechanistic insights into hydrogenolysis of lignin to monomers in a continuous flow reactor.” Green Chemistry 21(13), 3561–3572 (2019). [DOI:10.1039/c9gc00986h]