Lignin, one of the major chemical constituents of woody biomass, is the second most abundant biopolymer found in nature. The pulp and paper industry has long produced lignin on the scale of millions of tons annually as a by-product of the pulping process, and the dawn of cellulosic ethanol production has further contributed to this amount. Historically, lignin has been perceived as a waste material and burned as a fuel for the pulping process. However, recent research has been geared toward developing cost-effective technologies to convert lignin into valuable commodities. Attributing to the polyphenolic structure of lignin, enzymatic modification of its surface using laccases (benzenediol:oxygen oxidoreductases, EC 126.96.36.199) has demonstrated to be highly successful. The current study aims at developing lignin-core hyperbranched copolymers via the laccase-assisted copolymerization of kraft lignin with methylhydroquinone and a trithiol. Based on the physical properties of the resulting material, it is likely that crosslinking reactions have taken place during the drying process to produce a copolymeric network rather than discrete hyperbranched copolymers, with NMR data providing evidence of covalent bonding between monomers. Preliminary thermal analysis data reveals that the copolymeric material possesses a moderate glass transition temperature and exhibits good thermostability, thus may have potential application as a lignin-based thermoplastic. Scanning electron microscopy images confirm the smooth, glossy surface of the material and that it is densely packed. The presented results are a sustainable, ecofriendly, economic method to create an exciting novel biomaterial from a renewable feedstock while further enhancing lignin valorization.
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 6, 2017
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