Lignin is the second most abundant biopolymer after cellulose. It has long been obtained as a by-product of cellulose production in pulp and paper production, but had rather low added-value applications. A changing paper market and the emergence of biorefinery projects should generate vast amounts of lignin with the potential of value addition. Nanomaterials offer unique properties and the preparation of lignin nanoparticles and other nanostructures has therefore gained interest as a promising technique to obtain value-added lignin products. Due to lignin's high structural and chemical heterogeneity, methods must be adapted to these different types. This review focuses on the ability of different formation methods to cope with the huge variety of lignin types and points out which particle characteristics can be achieved by which method. The current research's main focus is on pH and solvent-shifting methods where the latter can yield solid and hollow particles. Solvent shifting also showed the capability to cope with different lignin types and solvents and antisolvents, respectively. However, process conditions have to be adapted to every type of lignin and reduction of solvent demand or the integration in a biorefinery process chain must be focused.
Keywords: biorefinery; lignin; microparticles; nanoparticles; precipitation.