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Fractionation of Technical Lignin from Enzymatically Treated Steam-Exploded Poplar Using Ethanol and Formic Acid

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journal contribution
posted on 24.11.2022, 16:33 authored by Riku Maltari, Jussi Kontro, Klaus Koivu, Muhammad Farooq, Joona Mikkilä, Rui Zhang, Kristiina Hildén, Jussi Sipilä, Paula A. Nousiainen
Lignocellulosic biorefineries produce lignin-rich side streams with high valorization potential concealed behind their recalcitrant structure. Valorization of these residues to chemicals, materials, and fuels increases the profitability of biorefineries. Fractionation is required to reduce the lignins’ structural heterogeneity for further processing. We fractionated the technical biorefinery lignin received after steam explosion and saccharification processes. More homogeneous lignin fractions were produced with high β-O-4′ and aromatic content without residual carbohydrates. Non-toxic biodegradable organic solvents like ethanol and formic acid were used for fractionation and can be adapted to the existing biorefinery processes. Macromolecular properties of the isolated fractions were carefully characterized by structural, chemical, and thermal methods. The ethanol organosolv treatment produced highly soluble lignin with a reasonable yield, providing a uniform material for lignin applications. The organosolv fractionation with formic acid and combined ethanol-formic acid produced modified lignins that, based on thermal analysis, are promising as thermoresponsive materials.