Synthesis of A Lignin Depolymerization Probe

Mohammed Ullah
Mohammed Ullah

Brooklyn, NY
Abraham Lincoln High School
Wesleyan University
Class of 2022
Major: Chemistry
Interests: Anime, Drawing, and Keto Baking
Post Graduation Plans: Graduate School, Ph.D

Abstract: Lignin is an organic polymer that makes up a large portion of the world’s biowaste. It is found linked to cellulose in plant cell walls and is a waste product of the pulp/paper industry. Although very abundant in the world, it is primarily used as a furnace fuel and converted directly into CO2. However, lignin can be broken down by fungal peroxidases, but the process is too slow to be considered a commercially feasible choice. Termites and wood-eating organisms have been shown to depolymerize lignin through the use of bacteria and enzymes in their digestive tract in a fast and efficient manner in comparison to fungal peroxidases. Since bioinformatic and other investigations have to date failed to identify which enzymes are responsible for the breakdown, further investigations are needed to identify these depolymerizing enzymes. We propose to synthesize an organic probe molecule containing a fluorophore and a quencher to detect the exact location of these lignin degradation enzymes within these organisms’ digestive tract. In this 13-step synthesis, the creation of this lignin depolymerization detection probe will allow researchers to conduct in vivo experiments, which is anticipated to allow the development of lignin as an alternative biomass for biofuel and fine chemical production.

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