APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Lignin depolymerization for biological conversion into useful chemicals and intermediates
- Significantly more efficient at breaking carbon-carbon bonds in comparison to previous methods
- Decreases the molecular weight of lignin when the lignin is sulfonated
- Reaction is suitable for directly feeding into a bioreactor for biological conversion
There is a need for cost-effective approaches to depolymerize lignin that are optimized for the biological conversion of lignin. High temperature and pressure catalytic approaches to depolymerize lignin are expensive and often yield products that are toxic to organisms.
Michael S. Kent of Sandia National Labs and the Joint BioEnergy Institute has developed a modification to the chelator-mediated Fenton (CMF) reaction that results in more efficient depolymerization of lignin.
The new invention includes a step to sulfonate lignin, and the CMF reaction is then performed to active large molecular weight reductions. Engineered microorganisms are utilized to convert the carbon into various chemicals and intermediates. Unoptimized but best results to date demonstrate MW reductions of 1-2 orders of magnitude for lignosulfonate processed at 5 mg/mL. An important parameter determining the economic viability of this process is the amount of lignin depolymerized for a given amount of H2O2 consumed. For instance, at 0.1% H2O2, the MW was reduced by a factor of 10.
There are various novel aspects of this invention: 1) the same reaction can also depolymerize lignosulfonate, 2) it enables the selection of reaction conditions that depolymerize only, with no subsequent repolymerization, and 3) it optimizes conditions for avoiding repolymerization and for minimizing the use of the reactants (e.g., H2O2). Ultimately, the approach has distinctive advantages compared to the main alternatives and may greatly improve the overall economics of lignocellulosic biorefineries.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Patent pending.
OPPORTUNITIES: Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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