Towards sustainable production and utilization of plant-biomass-based nanomaterials: a review and analysis of recent developments

J. Y. Zhu*, Umesh P. Agarwal, Peter N. Ciesielski, Michael E. Himmel, Runan Gao, Yulin Deng, Maria Morits, Monika Österberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
96 Downloads (Pure)


Plant-biomass-based nanomaterials have attracted great interest recently for their potential to replace petroleum-sourced polymeric materials for sustained economic development. However, challenges associated with sustainable production of lignocellulosic nanoscale polymeric materials (NPMs) need to be addressed. Producing materials from lignocellulosic biomass is a value-added proposition compared with fuel-centric approach. This report focuses on recent progress made in understanding NPMs-specifically lignin nanoparticles (LNPs) and cellulosic nanomaterials (CNMs)-and their sustainable production. Special attention is focused on understanding key issues in nano-level deconstruction of cell walls and utilization of key properties of the resultant NPMs to allow flexibility in production to promote sustainability. Specifically, suitable processes for producing LNPs and their potential for scaled-up production, along with the resultant LNP properties and prospective applications, are discussed. In the case of CNMs, terminologies such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) used in the literature are examined. The term cellulose nano-whiskers (CNWs) is used here to describe a class of CNMs that has a morphology similar to CNCs but without specifying its crystallinity, because most applications of CNCs do not need its crystalline characteristic. Additionally, progress in enzymatic processing and drying of NPMs is also summarized. Finally, the report provides some perspective of future research that is likely to result in commercialization of plant-based NPMs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114
Number of pages31
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
MoE publication typeA2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review


  • Lignin nanoparticles (LNPs)
  • Cellulosic nanomaterials (CNMs)
  • Cellulosic nano-whiskers (CNWs)
  • Cell wall deconstruction
  • Fibrillation


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