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Poster Abstracts

Poster Title: Conversion of lignin biomass into value-added fuels and chemicals

Authors: Meredith Bembenic, Dongxiang Wang, Nicole Robitaille Brown, Caroline Burgess Clifford

Poster Abstract: Plant biomass is a vast renewable hydrocarbon source, which can potentially be converted into transportation fuels and chemicals.  In Pennsylvania, hardwoods are anticipated to be one of the major biorefining feedstocks for ethanol production.  This process is contingent upon the removal of lignin, and since lignin is the second most abundant biopolymer next to cellulose, an abundant waste material is available for conversion to value-added products. Lignin is a highly condensed, complex organic molecule, and most processes produce a complex suite of chemicals. The research presented in the poster focuses on the conversion of lignin by two different processes:

  1. in superheated steam and supercritical water (350-400°C) and
  2. under oxidation conditions in silver catalyst and 100°C under basic conditions. 

For the high temperature water conditions, the main products of reaction are CH3OH, CH4, H2, CO2, and phenolic alcohols, although the potential for char formation and additional liquid production (e.g., acetic acid, formic acid, ethanol, and H2CO3) also exists.  The addition of carbon dioxide is being investigated as a means to improve lignin conversion to methanol and phenolic alcohols.  Under the oxidation conditions, ~35-80% of the lignin is converted.  Major products include aromatic carboxylic acid derivatives of hardwood lignin. Our aim has been characterization of all feeds and products for complete mass balances, which will foster elucidation of reaction mechanisms for the two different processes under investigation. These projects explore value-added uses for lignin, target new technology for fuel production, and offer the potential for greener methods of producing industrial chemicals.