Production of carbonaceous platform materials and biochemicals from waste lignin


Lignin is the second most abundant `polymer' in Nature after cellulose. This polymer-like structure comprises different phenylpropane units with high potential as platform molecules. Indeed, phenolic compounds obtained upon lignin depolymerization are most valuable intermediates for the chemical/pharmaceutical industry. 


Proposed model of a lignin fragment


Additionally, lignin-derived carbonaceous materials display promising properties for a whole range of different applications: biochar is the carbon-rich material obtained after thermal treatment of e.g. ligin and its versatile physicochemical and electrochemical properties prompt added-value applications for this material. Such applications include e.g. its use as (i) soil amendment, (ii) catalyst support, (iii) sorption material and (v) electrode materials for (bio)electrochemical systems and supercapacitors. 



 Different applications for biochar-based materials


Despite this high potential of lignin, it mostly remains unvalorized due to lacks in fundamental insights and several technical issues. This PhD thesis will address this discrepancy and aims to unleash the potential of lignin. More specifically, the production of carbonaceous platform materials and bio- chemicals from waste lignin will be investigated. Fundamental insights include (but are not limited to) the understanding of electrochemistry and surface chemistry of biochars and pyrolysis chemistry, while technical issues include (but are not limited to) pretreatment of lignin for convenient reactor introduction.

Project Administration

Researcher: Stef Ghysels