Characterization of Lignin Using Multi-Angle Laser Light Scattering and Atomic Force Microscopy

Aarti V. Gidh, Stephen R. Decker, Chun H. See, Michael E. Himmel, Clint W. Williford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus Citations


Small differences in the isolation techniques of lignin can result in significant changes in its molecular structure and configuration. Light scattering (evaluated at 18 different angles in a plane), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) proved very effective for evaluating the characteristics of lignin. Zimm plots were generated using Zimm, Debye and Berry formalisms to evaluate the weight average molecular weight (MW), radius of gyration (rg), hydrodynamic radius (rh) and second virial coefficient (A2). Two types of lignin and nine different solvents were used for the study, to analyze the conformation of lignin molecules in different solvents expected to be used in lignin degradation and subsequent analysis. Absolute MW and rg decreased and the dn/dc increased when the solvent used for lignin was changed from water to sodium hydroxide. The two types of lignin also exhibited different values for all the above estimated parameters. This study also highlighted the differences between the unlyophilized and lyophilized lignin in terms of aggregation, pH dependence and stability over time. This aggregation has never been seen on a ultraviolet (UV) or refractive index (RI) detector that has been used so far for liquid chromatography (LC) reducing the reliability of lignin depolymerization data obtained without light scattering.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-510-39635


  • Aggregation
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Characterization
  • Depolymerization
  • Lignin
  • Molecular conformation
  • Multi-angle laser light scattering


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