Downstream Fractionation of Extractive AFEX Lignin Streams


Executive Summary


Enzymatically processing lignocellulosic biomass for ethanol production results in the separation of cellulose and lignin. While cellulose can be used to create ethanol, the lignin extracted through standard paper pulping and other chemically harsh methods is generally considered unfit for commercial use due to impurities and heterogeneity. MSU researchers developed a method to extract highly purified lignin from biomass which can be fractionated and used as a valuable feedstock material for various applications such as carbon fiber composites, bio-oil, resins, adhesive binders and coating, plastics, paints, enriching soil organic carbon, fertilizer, rubbers and elastomers, paints,  and antimicrobial agents.


Description of Technology


This technology uses ammonia as the (re-usable) pretreatment chemical to extract high quality lignin from biomass and separates the extractives into different fractions using differences in solubility. The novel lignin extract is much more useful in the downstream chemical production process than the highly degraded or sulfonated lignin obtained with traditional extraction processes. It is uniquely suitable as feedstock to produce carbon fibers in addition to other value-added chemicals such as aromatic precursors for chemical industries, and biofuels. The novel lignin extraction process can save 25 trillion BTU and lower GHG emissions by at least 1.5 million tons of CO2 for every million tons of lignin produced compared to conventional methods.


Key Benefits

  • Revenue: Additional revenue stream for biorefineries
  • High quality product: Produces higher quality lignin which can be used as a valuable feedstock material for a wide range of applications
  • Reduce carbon footprint: Novel method reduces CO2 emissions in production process



  • Integrated biorefinery system
  • Production of phenolics from biomass
  • Production of polyester precursors from biomass
  • Production of carbon fiber precursors from biomass


Patent Status:


Patent Pending: US20130244293A1


Licensing Rights Available


Full licensing rights available.


Inventors: Dr. Bruce Dale, Dr. Shishir Chundawat, Dr. Venkatesh Balan, Dr. Leonardo Da Costa Sousa


Tech ID: TEC2012-0114


Learn more about the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU 


Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University