Transforming biorefinery designs with ‘Plug-In Processes of Lignin’ to enable economic waste valorization Academic Article uri icon


  • Biological lignin valorization has emerged as a major solution for sustainable and cost-effective biorefineries. However, current biorefineries yield lignin with inadequate fractionation for bioconversion, yet substantial changes of these biorefinery designs to focus on lignin could jeopardize carbohydrate efficiency and increase capital costs. We resolve the dilemma by designing 'plug-in processes of lignin' with the integration of leading pretreatment technologies. Substantial improvement of lignin bioconversion and synergistic enhancement of carbohydrate processing are achieved by solubilizing lignin via lowering molecular weight and increasing hydrophilic groups, addressing the dilemma of lignin- or carbohydrate-first scenarios. The plug-in processes of lignin could enable minimum polyhydroxyalkanoate selling price at as low as $6.18/kg. The results highlight the potential to achieve commercial production of polyhydroxyalkanoates as a co-product of cellulosic ethanol. Here, we show that the plug-in processes of lignin could transform biorefinery design toward sustainability by promoting carbon efficiency and optimizing the total capital cost.

altmetric score

  • 79.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, Z., Hao, N., Wang, Y., Dou, C., Lin, F., Shen, R., ... Yuan, J. S.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Zhi-Hua||Hao, Naijia||Wang, Yun-Yan||Dou, Chang||Lin, Furong||Shen, Rongchun||Bura, Renata||Hodge, David B||Dale, Bruce E||Ragauskas, Arthur J||Yang, Bin||Yuan, Joshua S

publication date

  • June 2021