BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Hydrogenolysis Offers an Improved Method to Break Down Lignin
Published: April 25, 2019
Posted: August 03, 2021


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


  • 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.


  • 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.

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]

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)