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Science. 2014 May 16;344(6185):1246843. doi: 10.1126/science.1246843.

Lignin valorization: improving lignin processing in the biorefinery.

Author information

1
BioEnergy Science Center, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Institute of Paper Science and Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. arthur.ragauskas@chemistry.gatech.edu.
2
National Bioenergy Center and National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO 80402, USA.
3
Department of Wood Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
4
BioEnergy Science Center, Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203, USA.
5
BioEnergy Science Center and National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80402, USA.
6
BioEnergy Science Center, Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA.
7
Energy and Environmental Science Directorate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA.
8
Biology and Soft Matter Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA.
9
Materials Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA.
10
BioEnergy Science Center, Center for Environmental Research and Technology and Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Riverside, CA 92507, USA.

Abstract

Research and development activities directed toward commercial production of cellulosic ethanol have created the opportunity to dramatically increase the transformation of lignin to value-added products. Here, we highlight recent advances in this lignin valorization effort. Discovery of genetic variants in native populations of bioenergy crops and direct manipulation of biosynthesis pathways have produced lignin feedstocks with favorable properties for recovery and downstream conversion. Advances in analytical chemistry and computational modeling detail the structure of the modified lignin and direct bioengineering strategies for future targeted properties. Refinement of biomass pretreatment technologies has further facilitated lignin recovery, and this coupled with genetic engineering will enable new uses for this biopolymer, including low-cost carbon fibers, engineered plastics and thermoplastic elastomers, polymeric foams, fungible fuels, and commodity chemicals.

PMID:
24833396
DOI:
10.1126/science.1246843
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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