The current and emerging sources of technical lignins and their applications

Biofuel Bioprod Biorefin. 2018 Jul 18:0:1-32. doi: 10.1002/bbb.1913.


Technical lignins are bulk feedstocks. They are generated as byproducts from pulping or cellulosic ethanol production. Since lignin undergoes significant structural changes in the chemical and physical treatments, all technical lignins are unique in terms of chemical structure, molecular weight, polydispersity, and impurity profile. Kraft lignin is potentially the largest source of technical lignin as new isolation technologies have been implemented on industrial scale in recent years. Lignosulfonate has been an integral product in sulfite pulping biorefinery. It has a well-established market in construction industry. Organosolv-like lignin production is increasing as cellulosic ethanol has been promoted as the substitute of fossil fuel. It may have unique applications because it has low molecule weight and is free from sulfur. Technical lignin application is expected to expand as the characteristics are improved with fractionation or chemical modification. The application of technical lignin has been focusing on developing products equivalent to those made by petroleum chemicals. The recent development in technical lignin supply should increase its market share as additives in polyurethanes and as the substitute of phenol-formaldehyde adhesives. Quality improvement of technical lignin may also encourage the study of lignin as an alternative feedstock for carbon fiber. In addition, technical lignin depolymerization has been extensively explored to provide renewable aromatic chemicals. Starting from controlled pyrolysis and thermal liquefaction as the baseline technologies, many different chemical depolymerization have been invented with a wide range of underlying chemical principles.

Keywords: Kraft Process; Lignocellulose; biorefinery; lignin; lignosulfonate.