Isolating key reaction energetics and thermodynamic properties during hardwood model lignin pyrolysis
Computational studies on the pyrolysis of lignin using electronic structure methods have been largely limited to dimeric or trimeric models. In the current work we have modeled a lignin oligomer consisting of 10 syringyl units linked through 9 b-O-40 bonds. A lignin model of this size is potentially more representative of the polymer in angiosperms; therefore, we used this representative model to examine the behavior of hardwood lignin during the initial steps of pyrolysis. Using this oligomer, the present work aims to determine if and how the reaction enthalpies of bond cleavage vary with positions within the chain. To accomplish this, we utilized a composite method using molecular mechanics based conformational sampling and quantum mechanically based density functional theory (DFT) calculations. Our key results show marked differences in bond dissociation enthalpies (BDE) with the position. In addition, we calculated standard thermodynamic properties, including enthalpy of formation, heat capacity, entropy, and Gibbs free energy for a wide range of temperatures from 25 K to 1000 K. The prediction of these thermodynamic properties and the reaction enthalpies will benefit further computational studies and cross-validation with pyrolysis experiments. Overall, the results demonstrate the utility of a better understanding of lignin pyrolysis for its effective valorization.