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Issue 12, 2012
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Turning renewable resources into value-added polymer: development of lignin-based thermoplastic

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Abstract

Productive uses of lignin, the third most abundant natural polymer, have been sought for decades. One especially attractive possibility is that of developing value-added products including thermoplastics based on lignin. This possibility warrants special attention due to growth of the modern biofuel industries. However, the polydisperse molecular weight and hyper-branched structure of lignin has hindered the creation of high-performance biopolymers. Here, we report the preparation and characterization of novel lignin-based, partially carbon-neutral thermoplastics. We first altered the molecular weight of lignin, either by fractionation with methanol, or by formaldehyde crosslinking. Crosslinking of lignin increases the molecular weight, exhibiting Mn = 31 000 g mol−1, whereas that of as-received lignin is 1840 g mol−1. Tuning the molecular weight of lignin enabled successful preparation of novel lignin-derived thermoplastics, when coupled with telechelic polybutadiene soft-segments at proper feed ratios. Characteristic to thermoplastic rubbers, free-standing films of the resulting copolymers exhibit two-phase morphology and associated relaxations in the dynamic mechanical loss spectrum. To the best of our knowledge this article is the first report to demonstrate phase immiscibility, melt-processibility, and biphasic morphology of soft and hard segments in a lignin-based copolymer for all feed ratios of two macromolecular components. The use of higher molecular weight lignin enhanced the resulting shear modulus due to efficient network formation of telechelic polybutadiene bridges. The storage modulus in the rubbery plateau region increased with increasing lignin content. The successful synthesis of novel lignin-based thermoplastics will open a new pathway to biomass utilization and will help conserve petrochemicals.

Graphical abstract: Turning renewable resources into value-added polymer: development of lignin-based thermoplastic

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Publication details

The article was received on 19 Jun 2012, accepted on 25 Jul 2012 and first published on 17 Oct 2012


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2GC35933B
Citation: Green Chem., 2012,14, 3295-3303
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    Turning renewable resources into value-added polymer: development of lignin-based thermoplastic

    T. Saito, R. H. Brown, M. A. Hunt, D. L. Pickel, J. M. Pickel, J. M. Messman, F. S. Baker, M. Keller and A. K. Naskar, Green Chem., 2012, 14, 3295
    DOI: 10.1039/C2GC35933B

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