RII Track-2 FEC: Assembling Successful Structures: Lignin Beads for Sustainability of Food, Energy, and Water Systems

Grants and Contracts Details


Lignin is produced in virtually all growing plants, typically constituting between 10 to 40% of the plant dry matter. This ubiquitous polymer is thought to have tremendous potential to be used as a feedstock for chemical and advanced materials, replacing petrochemical feedstocks, however several barriers are impeding progress towards this goal. Creating advanced materials is one major use envisioned for the products of lignin deconstruction, and modifying interfacial surface chemistry is one route to creating advanced materials. Lignin monolignols and polylignols are known to have reactive sites that can be uses for attachment chemistry. Functionalizing surfaces (e.g. thin films and nanoparticles) with lignin derivatives holds great promise for developing technologies which enable sustainable food, energy and water systems. The major barrier to capitalizing lignin’s potential lies in the complexity of its structure. Deconstruction techniques to date are not capable of directing the composition of the products, and therefore the output from decomposition is a heterogeneous mix. This mixture is very difficult to analyze for composition, and nearly impossible to fractionate to recover the desired chemical configurations. Another barrier is that each plant species essentially has its own complex lignin structure, so the products of deconstruction differ when different sources of lignin are used. We are proposing to build a collaborative team to study a novel approach to addressing the lignin challenge; bi-directionally with constructed and deconstructed lignin. Dr. Lynn’s lab has constructed monolignol-based macromolecules which will serve as synthetic models of lignin deconstruction products. The models will be used to a)further our understanding of the deconstruction processes of pyrolysis and ionic-liquid pretreatment by deconstructing wellcharacterized materials and b)allow for the study of lignin derivatives to functionalize surfaces for advanced materials. Pyrolysis and ionic liquid pretreatment will also be used for deconstructing native lignin to move what is being learned on model lignin to a real systems. Our project objectives are: Objective 1: Develop a nationally recognized research program focused on technologies enabled by lignin bead technology through strategic interjurisdictional collaboration, the expansion of research capacity, and mentoring diverse early career faculty. Objective 2: Establish links between lignin construction and lignin deconstruction with the goal of directing deconstruction of natural lignin to desired chemical profiles. Solid-phase lignin chemistry will be used to build synthetic models of monolignol-based macromolecules. Pyrolysis and ionic liquids will be studied as two commonly-used methods of lignin deconstruction. Objective 3: Manipulate the interfacial surface properties using lignin bead chemistry to advance the science of lignin-based products for advanced material applications. Interfacial surface properties will be studied using thin films, nanoparticles, and molecular simulation. Objective 4: Develop and conduct outreach activities to engage and train the future STEM workforce and the general public by interconnecting the science of plant building blocks and sustainability in the context of Food, Water and Energy Systems. We are uniquely positioned to illuminate connections between our new insights and global challenges through both the existing STEM outreach infrastructure, and new efforts as a result of this funding.
Effective start/end date8/1/169/30/21


  • Louisiana State University


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