Lignin valorization for the production of renewable chemicals: State-of-the-art review and future prospects

Leichang Cao, Iris K.M. Yu, Yaoyu Liu, Xiuxiu Ruan, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Andrew J. Hunt, Yong Sik Ok, Hocheol Song, Shicheng Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

280 Citations (Scopus)


Lignin is an abundant biomass resource in aromatic structure with a low price in market, which can serve as renewable precursors of value-added products. However, valorization rate of annually produced lignin is less than 2%, suggesting the need for technological advancement to capitalize lignin as a versatile feedstock. In recent years, efficient utilization of lignin has attracted wide attention. This paper summarizes the research advances in the utilization of lignin resources (mainly in the last three years), with a particular emphasis on two major approaches of lignin utilization: catalytic degradation into aromatics and thermochemical treatment for carbon material production. Hydrogenolysis, direct pyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and hydrothermal carbonization of lignin are discussed in detail. Based on this critical review, future research directions and development prospects are proposed for sustainable and cost-effective lignin valorization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-475
Number of pages11
JournalBioresource Technology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Aromatic derivatives
  • Biorefinery
  • Engineered biochar
  • Hydrogenolysis
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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