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A-Z Knowledge on Wood-derived Chemicals

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Wood Cellulose

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Lignin from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Lignin from Wood

Carbon Fiber


Lignin represents a potential low-cost source of carbon suitable for displacing synthetic polymers, such as: Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) in the production of carbon fiber. Using lignin in the carbon fiber manufacturing process improves:

  • Raw material availability
  • Decreases raw material sensitivity to petroleum cost, and
  • Decreases environmental impacts

The goal of replacing steel panels with lightweight, yet strong, carbon fiber-reinforced plastics is to significantly reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy.

Resins and Adhesives


Resins and adhesives offer a large opportunity, especially for formaldehyde-free applications. Formaldehyde is currently considered a carcinogen and its banishment from consumer and packaging goods and building products is highly likely in the near term.

Technical needs and challenges for lignin in this area center on:

  • Effective, practical means for molecular weight and viscosity control
  • Functional group enhancement to improve oxidative and thermal stability, for example:
    • Carbonylation
    • Carboxylation
    • Amination
    • Epoxidation, and
    • De-etherification
  • Consistent mechanical processing properties
  • Control lignin color, and
  • Precise control of cure kinetics

Product consistency in these application targets will also be a technical challenge.

Benefits of Using Lignin

Polymer Modifiers


Polymer modifiers can be simple, low-cost fillers or may be high-value additives that improve various polymer physical or performance properties. Currently, lignin use concentrates on the former; Current research is concentrating on the latter by creating technologies that improve polymer:

  • Alloying
  • Mutual solubility
  • Cross-linking, and
  • Control of color

Relevant technologies include:

  • Predictable molecular weight control
  • Facile introduction of reactive functionality, and
  • Polyelectrolytic functionality

Monomeric Molecules


Very selective depolymerization, also invoking C-C and C-O bond rupture, could yield a plethora of complex aromatics that are difficult to make via conventional petrochemical routes. These complex aromatics include:

  • Propylphenol
  • Eugenol
  • Syringols
  • Aryl ethers
  • Alkylated methyl aryl ethers

Research is concentrating on developing technology that would allow highly selective bond-scission to capture the monomeric lignin building block structures. However, markets and applications for monomeric lignin building blocks would need to be developed.

This development is therefore longest-term and currently has unknown market pull for large-scale use. Since, most of the chemical industry is used to single, pure-molecule raw materials, using mixtures of products in a chemical raw material feed, as would arise from lignin processing, constitutes a challenge.

BTX Molecules (Benzene, Toluene, Xylene)


Developments concentrate on non-selective depolymerization technologies in the form of C-C and C-O bond rupture. This can lead to the production of aromatics in the form of BTX plus phenol and includes aliphatics in the form of C1 to C3 fractions.

Development of the required non-selective chemistries is part of the long-term opportunity. But, it is likely to be achievable sooner than highly selective depolymerizations. In fact, some of the past hydro-liquefaction work with lignin suggests that, with further development, this concept is a good possibility.


R&D Projects for the Valorization of Sugars from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Extractives from Wood

Wood Chemistry Reinventing Polymers for a Greener Future

Biopolymers Derived from Wood Extractives

Bio-based Polymers Derived from Wood-based Lignin

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Sugars

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Cellulose

Barriers to the Development of Wood Biomass-derived Bio-products

Feedstock Related Barriers

Technology Related Barriers

Market Related Barriers

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