Softwood kraft lignin is a major bioresource relevant to the production of sustainable bio-based products. Continued challenges to lignin valorization, however, include poor solubility in organic solvents and in aqueous solutions at neutral pH. Herein, an alkaline tolerant laccase was used to graft acrylate functionalities onto softwood kraft lignin, which is expected to enhance the reactivity of lignin with isocyanate when producing bio-based polyurethanes. Proton nuclear magnetic resonance, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and high-performance liquid chromatography were used to confirm successful grafting of the acrylate monomer onto lignin and verify the importance of including tert-butyl hydroperoxide as an initiator in the grafting reaction. Laccase-mediated grafting of softwood kraft lignin under alkaline conditions produced lignin products with approximately 30% higher hydroxyl value and higher reactivity toward isocyanate. The reported enzymatic and aqueous process presents an opportunity for the sustainable valorization of softwood kraft lignin.
- Kraft lignin