Ambient-pressure lignin valorization to high-performance polymers by intensified reductive catalytic deconstruction

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Marzouk Benali and Moye Ajao jointly with a team from the University of Delaware brought together by Thomas Epps, III, and including, among others, Marianthi Ierapetritou and Dion Vlachos, have written a paper in which they demonstrate that it is possible to efficiently turn industrially processed lignin into high-performance plastics, such as bio-based 3D-printing resins, and valuable chemicals.

An economic and life-cycle analysis reveals the approach can be competitive with similar petroleum-based products, too.

Their work presents an innovative integrated valorization approach for upgrading existing lignin streams and opening new market opportunities.


Chemocatalytic lignin valorization strategies are critical for a sustainable bioeconomy, as lignin, especially technical lignin, is one of the most available and underutilized aromatic feedstocks. Here, we provide the first report of an intensified reactive distillation–reductive catalytic deconstruction (RD-RCD) process to concurrently deconstruct technical lignins from diverse sources and purify the aromatic products at ambient pressure. We demonstrate the utility of RD-RCD bio-oils in high-performance additive manufacturing via stereolithography 3D printing and highlight its economic advantages over a conventional reductive catalytic fractionation/RCD process. As an example, our RD-RCD reduces the cost of producing a biobased pressure-sensitive adhesive from softwood Kraft lignin by up to 60% in comparison to the high-pressure RCD approach. Last, a facile screening method was developed to predict deconstruction yields using easy-to-obtain thermal decomposition data. This work presents an integrated lignin valorization approach for upgrading existing lignin streams toward the realization of economically viable biorefineries.


Source: Sciences Advances