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Evaluation of Esterification as a Valorization Route for Oxidized Lignin
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Sustainable Process Engineering.
2017 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

RISE Bioeconomy is working with the biorefinery concept. That is, for the company, to utilize all wood derivatives in effective processes, resulting in unique products. RISE Bioeconomy is investigating the possibilities of producing holocellulose through an oxidative delignification process of wood, using peracetic acid (PAA). The product, high-purity holocellulose, can be used for the production of for example cellulose nanofibers, a product that in recent years have increased in interest.

The PAA-delignification process relies on oxidative treatment with peracetic acid, where the lignin is solubilized in water through the formation of carboxylic groups in the lignin, yielding cellulose of very low lignin content and minimal degradation of the cellulose. In addition to the holocellulose, a solution containing water, acetic acid, salts and highly oxidized lignin is obtained. The PAA-delignification has yet only been performed in lab-scale, however, the aim is to scale up the process. There has not yet been any further utilization of the oxidized lignin and it has been proposed that esterification of the carboxylic groups with an alcohol is a possible valorization route. Due to the up-scaling of the PAA-delignification, it is of large interest to find a valorization route for the lignin by-product to fulfill the biorefinery concept.

This master thesis focuses on evaluating esterification of an oxidized lignin, with the aim to propose a process suitable for up-scaling. The lab trials for the PAA-delignification of wood yielded limited amounts of lignin and due to difficulties while isolating this lignin, it was not partially characterized until months into the project.

Therefore, model compounds were initially used to evaluate the process setup. Compounds with muconic acid type structures are some of the expected products from PAA-delignification of wood and muconic acid was therefore used as a model compound. In addition to this, vanillic acid was used to represent the phenolic lignin compounds. Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis of the vanillic acid esterification was shown to be a suitable method for analyzing the conversion of this reaction. Due to the difficulties with the analysis of the model compounds, no results regarding the reaction procedures were obtained.

As a “proof-of-concept”, a kraft lignin was oxidized, isolated and then esterified. Two different methods of esterification were performed, with and without a molecular sieve. It was assumed that the amount of carboxylic groups would increase after oxidation and decrease after a successful esterification. The amount of carboxylic groups after each process was analyzed with Phosphorus Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (31P-NMR). For the process without molecular sieve, the 31P-NMR analysis indicated that esterification of the lignin had occurred, to a limited extent. This was confirmed by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (FTIR). The process with molecular sieve showed no indication of esterification of the lignin.

The project did prove the concept of esterifying an oxidized lignin and led to several different proposals for further work in the area. Due to the very wide scope of this project and several unexpected obstacles, this project did not fully answer the research questions given. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. , 52 p.
Keyword [en]
Lignin, Kraft Lignin, Esterification, Peracetic Acid, Oxidized Lignin, Muconic Acid, Vanillic Acid
National Category
Chemical Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-66306OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-66306DiVA: diva2:1153281
External cooperation
RISE Bioeconomy
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Sustainable Process Engineering, master's level
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2017-11-14 Created: 2017-10-29 Last updated: 2017-11-14Bibliographically approved

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