Biotechnology for biofuels

Epoxidation and etherification of alkaline lignin to prepare water-soluble derivatives and its performance in improvement of enzymatic hydrolysis efficiency.

PMID 27087854


Due to the depletion of fossil resources and their environmental impact, woody biomass has received much attention as an alternative resource. Lignin, as the third most abundant biopolymer from biomass, is now considered as an excellent alternative feedstock for chemicals and materials. The conversion of lignin to the value-added products is a key process to achieve an integrated biorefinery of woody biomass. Among these value-added products, lignin-based derivatives with good surface activity can be applied to enhance the conversion of cellulose into fermentable sugars, which not only decrease the cost of bioethanol production, but also reduce the environmental pollution and green house effect resulting from the burning of fossil resources. Water-soluble alkaline lignin was synthesized by the reaction between polyethylene glycols (PEG600 and PEG1000) and epoxy lignin. FT-IR and NMR analyses indicated that PEGs were successively introduced into epoxy alkaline lignin using potassium persulfate as a catalyst. Emulsification and surface activity tests indicated that the surface tension of the prepared lignin derivative solution was 43.30xa0mN/m at the critical micelle concentration (1.03xa0%). A stable emulsions layer was formed with hexanes and the emulsion particle diameter in the emulsion phase for all products was observed at 10-50xa0μm. The results of enzymatic hydrolysis indicated that the products derived from PEG1000-grafted lignin resulted in the highest increasing rate of 18.6xa0% of glucose yield during the enzymatic hydrolysis of hardwood bleached pulp. The results of fermentation experiments suggested that the product had no toxicity for fermentation micro-organisms. Water-soluble alkaline lignin derivatives were prepared through epoxidation and etherification, which are promising feedstocks for detergents, emulsifier, and additive to enhance enzymatic hydrolysis efficiency and ethanol fermentation.