Unleashing lignin valorization potential via consecutive mild soda extraction, mixed metal oxide catalyzed hydrogenolysis and high resolution 2D chromatography.

01 November 2020 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Analytical separation and detection techniques
  • Engineering and technology
    • Heterogeneous catalysis
    • Materials synthesis
Lignin depolymerisation Supported mixed metal oxide nanoparticle catalysts Analytics of lignin monomers and oligomers
Project description

Due to environmental concern and human impact on climate change, the focus in chemical technology has shifted heavily towards the replacement of fossil resources with greener alternatives. Lignin, a polymer-like structure, consisting of functionalised aromatic units, that together with cellulose and hemicellulose forms the cell wall of woody plants, gained a lot of attention because of this. Currently, vast amounts of lignin are produced as side products in industries focussing on polysaccharides such as the paper industry or the bio-ethanol producing biorefineries. However, due to the severe extraction conditions, the resulting lignin is of poor quality, which hinders valorisation through depolymerisation. Consequently, these technical lignins are almost integrally burned as low value fuels. If the depolymerisation of technical lignins to functionalised aromatic species could be achieved, the resulting products are fit to replace commodities such as phenol. This project aims at bridging the gap between technical lignins and their potential applications within the polymer industry by studying the effect of a mild soda extraction process on the lignin structure and the downstream depolymerisation of the resulting lignin through mild catalytic hydrogenolysis. Miscanthus x giganteus is chosen as a fast growing, rather easily extractable grass crop. The project employs a multidisciplinary approach and is boosted by the development of novel and innovative analytics.