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Chapter 9

Lignin Utilization

Lignin is one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, carrying out important biological roles in vascular plants. It has somewhat higher energy content than polysaccharides, but has a complex and heterogeneous structure including covalent bonds to polysaccharides. The partly random structure of lignin is explained by the fact that it is created by an uncatalyzed radical polymerization. Lignin is obtained as a by-product of various types of technical processes based on biomass, of which chemical pulping of wood is the most important. These technical lignins have structures that differ from native lignin. Sulphite pulping of wood generates a water soluble lignin derivate, which among other things, is used as a dispersing agent and dust binder. Kraft pulping generates a lignin that is insoluble at neutral pH, which today is mainly burned for heat generation in the chemical recovery system of the kraft pulp mill. Recently, efficient methods have been developed for the preparation of lignin from the process liquids, for use in energy generation or other applications. Conversion of technical lignin to liquid fuels for use in combustion engines is an interesting possibility that represents a technical challenge. This chapter reviews the structure and biopolymerisation of lignin, reactions of lignin during technical processes, and different applications of technical lignins.

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10 Sep 2010
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From the book series:
Energy and Environment Series