Phototunable Lignin Plastics to Enable Recyclability. Academic Article uri icon


  • The accumulation of non-degradable petrochemical plastics imposed a significant threat to the environment and ecosystems. We hereby addressed this challenge by designing a new type of phototunable plastics based on the unique lignin chemistry to enable readily end-life recycling. The advanced material design leveraged the efficient photocatalytic lignin depolymerization by zinc oxide nanoparticles to build lignin-PMMA-ZnO blends and composite. We first demonstrated the highly effective phototunable lignin depolymerization in the complex polymer blend matrix and explored the molecular mechanisms. The technical barriers of mechanical property and recycling processing were then addressed by the design of composite with lignin core grafted with PMMA polymer. The new process has resulted in a new type of PMMA- g -lignin composite which significantly improved the mechanical properties, making it comparable to PMMA alone. More importantly, the mechanical properties of the ultraviolet (UV)-treated composite decreased drastically in the new design, whereas the properties did not reduce in the non-grafted blends upon UV exposure. The results highlighted that the new composite design based on graftization maximized the impact of lignin depolymerization on composite structure and recyclability. Based on the results, we developed a process integrating UV and alkaline treatments to recycle PMMA for plastics and fractionated lignin for bioconversion or other applications in the new phototunable plastics.

published proceedings

  • ChemSusChem

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Hu, C., Zhao, M., Li, Q., Liu, Z., Hao, N., Meng, X., ... Yuan, J.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Hu, Cheng||Zhao, Mingzhen||Li, Qiang||Liu, Zhihua||Hao, Naijia||Meng, Xianzhi||Li, Jinghao||Lin, Furong||Li, Chenxuan||Fang, Lei||Dai, Susie Y||Ragauskas, Arthur J||Sue, HJ||Yuan, Joshua S

publication date

  • October 2021