Density functional theory study of spirodienone stereoisomers in lignin
The spirodienone structure in lignin is a relatively recent discovery, and it has been found to occur in lignin of various plant species at concentrations of ~3%, which is sufficiently high to be important for better understanding of its properties and reactivity. The cyclic structure, with a ß-1 bond, has been proposed to be a precursor for acyclic ß-1 linkages in lignin. Previous analytical work has revealed the presence, but not the absolute configuration, of two stereoisomeric forms of spirodienone. The objective of the current work was to determine if there are thermodynamic differences that could help identify the experimentally observed stereoisomers. Results from density functional theory calculations reveal the presence of clusters of stereoisomers with varying stability that may be of use in narrowing the list of possible structures. Furthermore, the bond dissociation enthalpy of the cyclic ring exhibited a particularly high value for the C-O cleavage reaction relative to more conventional ether bonds in lignin, perhaps due to limited electron delocalization possibilities.