Lignin Deconstruction for the Production of Liquid Fuels

Lignin Process

Woody plants, which contain the structural material lignin, are an abundant feedstock for the production of biofuels; however, many of the processes for converting them into liquid fuels will generate huge quantities of lignin residues. The overarching goal of this project is to develop improved processes for the direct conversion of lignin to liquid fuels. With guidance from molecular studies of lignin deconstruction, combined with directed molecular engineering of critical crop properties, researchers in this project aim to overcome lignin's resistance to chemical and biological manipulation.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) and involves the integration of biochemical engineering and chemistry. Key features of this approach include:

  • In planta chemical modification of lignin (e.g., via bacterial colonies) for easier processing
  • Subsequent processing via two main pathways:
  • controlled thermolysis in appropriate solvents (e.g., ionic liquids)
  • (catalytic) oxidative cleavage using H2O2 (cleavage at benzylic positions)
  • Upgrading of resulting product streams via hydrodeoxygenation using in situ generated H2 (from aqueous phase reforming)