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Investigation of structure-property relationship of lignin as a carbon catalyst precursor

Doctoral candidate Daria Robertson embarked on a 12-week research collaboration with Imperial College London UK (ICL) to advance the production of a carbon catalyst from lignin, a by-product of industries like pulp and biofuel.

Lignin, constituting 30% of plant biomass, is typically discarded or incinerated, but Robertson aims to upcycle it for high-value chemical production, contributing to a cost-effective lignin valorisation process. The research activities included hands-on learning of extraction techniques, carbonization processes, and collaboration with leading lignin and carbon experts at ICL, providing a unique opportunity to comprehend the structure-property relationship between lignin and resulting carbon. Utilizing ionic liquids, Robertson fractionated lignin to observe the resulting chemical, structural, and thermal properties, thus facilitating the development of a bioproduct value chain.

The research visit holds significant importance in strengthening connections between the research groups led by the principal investigator of the project, Prof Michael Hummel (Aalto University), and Dr Agnieszka Brandt-Talbot (ICL), an expert in lignin isolation and analysis. Beyond advancing carbon catalyst production, the collaboration offers insights into tailoring carbon produced from lignin for various applications, fostering open collaboration between Aalto University, Imperial College London UK, and the FinnCERES community, thereby promoting a broader involvement of lignin in the circular economy.

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