Mikhail Yu. Balakshin, Ewellyn A. Capanema, Irina Sulaeva, Philipp Schlee, Zeen Huang, Martin Feng, Maryam Borghei, Orlando J. Rojas, Antje Potthast, Thomas Rosenau
Conclusion of the work: Current biorefinery concepts should be elaborated and optimized for integrated utilization of all products in high-value applications rather than focusing on bioethanol, biofuels or sugars only, as is still common at present. Engineering of lignin for high-value applications will be a game changer within these efforts. BRLs will become the main target in such optimized biorefineries, while sugars/bioethanol are still utilized and valued, although now actually becoming by-products. BRLs can be used, if applied correctly, in various high-value applications, way beyond their fuel value. This can be achieved by direct use of BRLs – lignins comprising given amounts of crystalline cellulose – and/or after sustainable and cost-effective upgrading. These promising opportunities should favor a rethinking of the value utilization of biorefinery lignins. Lignin engineering for high-value applications requires serious analytical efforts and method development including lignin structural analysis and, especially, high-throughput methods for evaluation of lignin performance in specific applications. New and comprehensive lignin structure–performance relationships are urgently needed and at the same time the current ones should be revised and further developed. Attempts to find a “best-for-everything” lignin or a “killer application” for all lignin types are unreasonable. Each lignin type should find its own place, and each application will rest on suitable lignins particularly useful for that particular purpose.
Keywords: Lignin, biorefinery, crystalline cellulose, lignin valorization, nanoparticles
Reprinted with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/cssc.202002553. Copyright © 2020 Wiley‐VCH GmbH.