Separations Consortium: Lignin Rich Stream Fractionation and Purification

Eric Karp, Patrick Saboe, Emily Tomashek, Eric Tan, YuPo Lin, Ning Sun

Research output: NRELPresentation


In support of the Bioenergy Technologies Office in converting lignin to fuels and chemicals, this project develops scalable separations based on membranes and Electordeionization (EDI) to recover low molecular weight (LMW) compounds from lignin rich streams. The project addresses three technology barriers in developing the bioeconomy; (1) Cost of production (2) Selective separation of organic acid species, and (3) Advanced bioprocess development. Specifically, membrane cascades using Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) are investigated for the recovery of LMW lignin compounds from lignin rich streams such as Alkaline Pretreatment Liquor (APL), Reductive Catalytic Fractionation (RCF) oil, and Catalytic Oxidation oil. Process concepts, including dynamic filtration, are investigated to meet specific performance targets indicated by the consortium's Industrial Advisory Board for the membrane filtration including maintaining permeance > 1 LMH/bar and an overall cost target of < $1/kg of LMW lignin. EDI is investigated as an integral part of the membrane cascade to recover LMW aromatic acids and as an alternative to nanofiltration. Economic analysis of the processes is presented with a focus on minimizing energy consumption and capital expenditure. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis is presented to identify key cost drivers and optimize holistic process operating conditions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2021 Project Peer Review, 8-12, 15-16, and 22-26 March 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2800-79471


  • biomass
  • fuels
  • lignin
  • tangential flow filtration


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