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Hydrothermal treatments (HTT) are used in the biorefineries to effectively valorize carbohydrate fractions and their products. However, lignin is often marginalized as a secondary component. Herein, we propose a new biorefinery approach focused on lignin valorization. We demonstrate that high-value lignins can be extracted using a simple, green, and affordable process consisting of an optimized HTT followed by lignin extraction with aqueous acetone under ambient conditions. Significantly, the chemical structure and molecular mass of the lignin can be tailored by the selection of the process variables while maintaining a high yield, in the range of ∼60-90%. For example, the average molecular mass (Mw) of the isolated lignins is in the range between 2.5 and 5 kDa, while the amount of β-O-4 linkages is 4-28 per 100 Ar. The extracted lignins are further used to generate micro- and nanoparticles by using an aerosol flow system. The introduced lignin profiling affords control of particle properties, including average size and distribution, surface energy, and wettability. Overall, the suggested approach allows customization of lignin products while achieving a 58% reduction in the lignin particles production costs compared to the lowest prime figures reported so far.
- Lignin valorization