Chapter 1: A Brief Introduction to Lignin Structure

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Lignin is an alkyl-aromatic polymer found in the cell walls of terrestrial plants. Lignin provides structure and rigidity to plants, is a natural, highly effective barrier against microbial attack, and enables water and nutrient transport through plant tissues. Depending on the plant species, the constituents of lignin can vary considerably, leading to substantial diversity in lignin chemistry and structure. Despite nearly a century of research and development attempting to convert lignin into valuable products, lignin in most current and planned biorefinery contexts remains underutilized, most often being burned to generate heat and power. However, the drive towards effective lignin valorization processes has witnessed a significant resurgence in the past decade, catalyzed by advances in improved understanding of lignin chemistry, structure, and plasticity in parallel with new catalytic and biological approaches to valorize this important, prevalent biopolymer. As a preface to the subsequent chapters in this book, this chapter briefly highlights the known aspects of lignin structure.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationLignin Valorization: Emerging Approaches
Subtitle of host publicationRSC Energy and Environment Series, No. 19
EditorsGregg T. Beckham
PublisherRoyal Society of Chemistry
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781782620426, 9781782625544, 9781782629252
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameRSC Energy and Environment Series
ISSN (Print)2044-0774
ISSN (Electronic)2044-0782

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2018.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5100-71434


  • biorefineries
  • lignin
  • valorization


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