Fractionation of Lignin Streams Using Tangential Flow Filtration

Jipeng Yan, Eric Tan, Rui Katahira, Todd Pray, Ning Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations


Lignin fractionation helps its valorization process and yields high-quality and -value products. In this study, cascading tangential flow filtration (TFF) was employed for the fractionation of lignin molecules. The lignin-rich stream was obtained from the pretreatment process of corn stover using alkali (NaOH) and cholinium lysinate ([Ch][Lys]) as the catalyst. The effect of TFF (microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration) on lignin molecular weight, sugar distribution, viscosity, and lignin functional groups was investigated. In general, the study concluded that the average molecular weight (MW) and polydispersity of the permeate stream decreased with the reduction of the membrane pore size. TFF was effective in separating the low-MW lignin (200-350 Da) from the aqueous stream. Approximately 2% of monomeric lignin and 10-20% of low-molecular-weight lignin were recovered from NaOH- and [Ch][Lys]-extracted streams. Techno-economic analysis (TEA) results show that a high percentage of the low-MW lignin extraction can be achieved via a cascade TFF membrane operating at high transmembrane pressures (TMPs) and cross membrane velocities. Additionally, a high initial concentration of lignin in the liquid stream plays a critical role in the lignin product yield and recovery cost.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4407-4417
Number of pages11
JournalIndustrial and Engineering Chemistry Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-82355


  • biorefinery
  • lignin valorization
  • membrane separation
  • techno-economic analysis


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