Lignin: a sustainable chemicals warehouse

What is lignin?

Lignin – which comes from the Latin word for wood – is what gives plants their shape and sturdiness. Functionally, lignocellulose biopolymers strengthen the cell wall of plants and are made of three main components. Cellulose and hemicellulose form a framework and the third component, lignin, is an adhesive that solidifies the cell wall.

 

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Fine chemicals warehouse

Lignins are also useful industrially – you can think of lignins as kind of like a sustainable warehouse of fine chemicals. And the magic of lignins doesn’t stop there, because scientists hold the key to that warehouse – it is called depolymerisation. Once the lignin is depolymerised, its polyaromatic feedstocks can often stand in for the essential feedstocks of petroleum-derived materials.

Depolymerization

The structural and functional benefits that terrestrial plant life derives from lignins are also useful industrially – you can think of lignins as kind of like a sustainable warehouse of fine chemicals. And the magic of lignins doesn’t stop there, because scientists hold the key to that warehouse – it is called depolymerisation.

Applications

Once the lignin is depolymerised, its polyaromatic feedstocks can often stand in for the essential feedstocks of petroleum-derived materials. These lignin-based chemicals can be used to produce the plastics, drugs, paints and electronic products that are currently made from traditional petroleum.

Lignin comes from renewable resources

Unlike petroleum derived polymers, lignins can be derived from renewable resources including wood, straw, and even miscanthus – a giant, hardy and fast-growing grass that flourishes in nutrient-poor soils – which can minimise the competition of using food crops as sources of lignin.

Scaling and cost

How lignins will be used in the chemical industry of the future depends on many factors – including the advancement of scientific research that enables the responsible and cost-effective scaling of lignin processing into useful chemical feedstocks.

 

Lignin

Geplaatst in Biobased Economy, Bioplastics, Fields of Focus, Sirius Consultancy International en getagd met , , .

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