Pyrolytic lignin: a promising biorefinery feedstock for the production of fuels and valuable chemicals†
Lignocellulosic biomass is a key feedstock for the sustainable production of biofuels, biobased chemicals and performance materials. Biomass can be efficiently converted into pyrolysis liquids (also known as bio-oils) by the well-established fast pyrolysis technology. Currently, there is significant interest in the application of fast pyrolysis technology as principle biomass conversion technology due to its feedstock flexibility, low cost and high energy conversion efficiency, with many emerging commercial enterprises being established around the globe. Upgrading of the bio-oils is a requisite, and is complicated by its complex and heterogeneous organic nature. Pyrolysis liquids may be further separated by a simple water fractionation, yielding an aqueous sugar-rich phase and a water-insoluble pyrolytic lignin (PL) fraction. This separation step allows the use of dedicated conversion strategies for each fraction, which can be highly advantageous due to their differences in composition and reactivity. For example, the sugar-rich fractions can be used for fermentation, while the phenolic-rich PL is a particularly promising feedstock for the production of a wide range of platform chemicals and energy-dense streams upon depolymerization. To aid the emerging use of PL, novel characterization techniques and valorization strategies are being explored. In this review, the fast pyrolysis process and PL characterization efforts are discussed in detail, followed by the state-of-the-art regarding PL processing using both oxidative and reductive (catalytic) strategies, as well as a combination thereof. Possible applications are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Green Chemistry Reviews