Multi-Product Biomass Processing to Enhance Agriculture Output and Competiveness
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The proposed research will address one of the most important challenges in biomass processing, the use of lignin for fungible products. In particular, by complete utilization of biomass to produce fuels, chemicals, and materials, the project will uniquely enhance economic output, long-term sustainability, and overall competitiveness of US agriculture . This modified project will distinctively deliver a complete lignin-based bioproduct technology portfolio to transform biomass utilization for value-added agriculture products. The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) bill contains provisions that increase the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to 36 billion gallons by 2022, among which 22 billion gallons must be advanced biofuel derived from nonfood-based biomass. The USDA/DOE Updated Billion Ton report concluded that these goals can be met with lignocellulosic biomass including: perennial energy crops, agricultural crop and forest residues, tree farms, secondary forest industry waste materials, and other crops . Despite the potential of lignocellulosic biomass, the sustainability and economic viability of lignocellulosic biorefinery have been jeopardized by the lack of a proper solution to utilize the large volume of under-utilized lignin produced by the industrial biorefinery processes.The current efforts in biorefinery development are focused on maximizing the utilization of carbohydrates including both cellulose and hemicellulose. However, the utilization of lignin for fungible products remains highly challenging, even though lignin constitutes 15 to 40 percent of lignocellulosic biomass. Moreover, lignin contains a higher carbon content (60%) as compared to carbohydrate (~40%), providing a better source for chemical and material applications. To date, commercial applications of lignin have been for polymers, adhesives, dispersants, concrete additives, emulsifiers, and binders, but proper biorefinery procedures need to be developed so that lignin chemistry can be tailored to produce quality and value-added products amenable with the carbohydrate processing..........