AbstractIn this paper, the depolymerization of lignin was successfully achieved by the thermal treatment of kraft lignin in butyl-1,8-diazabicyclo[5.4.0]undec-7-enium chloride ([DBUC4+][Cl-]) without a catalyst. The thermal treatment experiments were performed in an oven at 150, 200, and 250 °C for 1 h. The changes in kraft lignin structure over the course of depolymerization were characterized by gel permeation chromatography (GPC), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and 1H / 31P NMR analyses. GPC chromatograms indicated that the retention time of the original kraft lignin had shifted toward higher values after the thermal treatment, which indicated lignin depolymerization. The average molecular weight of the lignin obtained after 1 h reaction time decreased by 23, 70, and 58 wt% for the treatment at 150, 200, and 250 °C, respectively. FTIR spectra indicated the cleavage of β-O-4 bonds of kraft lignin. The 1H NMR spectra showed demethylation of all treated kraft lignins. Moreover, the 31P NMR analysis demonstrated that the demethylation phenomenon of the treated kraft lignin contributed to the formation of catechol groups.