A simple process for lignin nanoparticle preparation

Miikka Lievonen, Juan José Valle-Delgado*, Maija Liisa Mattinen, Eva Lena Hult, Kalle Lintinen, Mauri A. Kostiainen, Arja Paananen, Géza R. Szilvay, Harri Setälä, Monika Österberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

257 Citations (Scopus)
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A lack of renewable resources and their inefficient use is a major challenge facing the society. Lignin is a natural biopolymer obtained mainly as a by-product from the pulp- and paper-making industries, and is primarily burned to produce energy. However, interest for using lignin in more advanced applications has increased rapidly. In particular, lignin based nanoparticles could find potential use in functional surface coatings, nanoglue, drug delivery, and microfluidic devices. In this work, a straightforward method to produce lignin nanoparticles from waste lignin obtained from kraft pulping is introduced. Spherical lignin nanoparticles were obtained by dissolving softwood kraft lignin in tetrahydrofuran (THF) and subsequently introducing water into the system through dialysis. No chemical modification of lignin was needed. Water acts as a non-solvent reducing lignin's degrees of freedom causing the segregation of hydrophobic regions to compartments within the forming nanoparticles. The final size of the nanoparticles depended on the pre-dialysis concentration of dissolved lignin. The stability of the nanoparticle dispersion as a function of time, salt concentration and pH was studied. In pure water and at room temperature the lignin nanoparticle dispersion was stable for over two months, but a very low pH or high salt concentration induced aggregation. It was further demonstrated that the surface charge of the particles could be reversed and stable cationic lignin nanoparticles were produced by adsorption of poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1416-1422
Number of pages7
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • lignin
  • nanoparticles


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