Journal article Open Access
Hydrothermal depolymerization of lignin-rich streams (LRS) from lignocellulosic ethanol was successfully carried out in a lab-scale batch reactors unit. A partial depolymerization into oligomers and monomers was achieved using subcritical water as reaction medium. The influence of temperature (300–350–370 °C) and time (5–10 minutes) was investigated to identify the optimal condition on the monomers yields in the lighter biocrude (BC1) and aqueous phase (AP) fractions, focusing on specific phenolic classes as well as carboxylic acids and alcohols. The effect of base catalyzed reactions (2–4 wt. % of KOH) was compared to the control tests as well as to acid-catalyzed reactions obtained with a biphasic medium of supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) and subcritical water. KOH addition resulted in enhanced overall depolymerization without showing a strong influence on the phenolic generation, whereas sCO2 demonstrated higher phenolic selectivity even though no effect was observed on the overall products mass yields. In conclusion, a comparison between two different biocrude collection procedures was carried out in order to understand how the selected chemical extraction mode influences the distribution of compounds between BC1 and AP.