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New Partnership for Innovation Grant

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Lignin highlight in RSCThere’s an old saying, that you can make anything from lignin, except money. Lignin, a significant component of plant-based biomass, has historically been difficult to transform into high value products.  A new grant from the National Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation (NSF-PFI) program aims to change that.

The three-year, $550,000 project, is led by Bala Subramaniam, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Kansas and Director for the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. Working with researchers from agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland, Subramaniam’s team plans to test the commercial viability of a new approach to processing lignin. 

While some parts of biomass are relatively easy to transform into useful building-block molecules, lignin is stubbornly stable, and is often just burned as a low-value heat source. This project will test the viability of CEBC’s innovative new approach to processing lignin. 

The first step in this new sequential approach uses a novel ozonolysis spray reactor to cleanly “pluck-off” a small, but valuable, portion of the lignin. One of the main products of this step is vanillin, the same chemical that gives vanilla extract its distinctive aroma.  This concept was demonstrated in a showcase article in a recent edition of Reaction Chemistry & Engineering.

Researchers will then break apart the remaining portion of the lignin using new catalysts. Like crafty scrapbook makers, catalysts help cut and glue molecular bonds, rearranging the atoms into useful building blocks for commercial products like adhesives, foam insulation, and composite wood materials.

After conducting lab-scale tests on the proposed technology, the team will use that information to develop a detailed economic and market assessment about its commercial potential.  

CEBC Calendar

October 6, Tuesday - CEBC Colloquium / NRT Seminar Series
9:00 a.m., via Zoom
Milind Kantak, INVISTA, Intellectual Property Manager and Chemical Engineer
"Intellectual Property and Industry Perspective"

October 13, Tuesday - CEBC Colloquium / NRT Seminar Series
9:00 a.m., via Zoom
Mei Liu, University of Kansas Medical Center, Associate Professor of Medical Informatics
"Artificial Intelligence: A Catalyst for Date-Driven Medicine"

October 13, Tuesday - Fall Industry Advisory Board Meeting, Part I
11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., via Zoom

October 14, Wednesday - Mandatory Safety Meeting 
9:00 a.m., via Zoom
Presenter: Kirk Snavely, Topic: TBA
This meeting is mandatory for all CEBC researchers working at 1501 Wakarusa

October 23, Tuesday - Fall Industry Advisory Board Meeting, Part II
9:00 - 11:00 a.m., via Zoom

October 27, Tuesday - CEBC Colloquium / NRT Seminar Series
9:00 a.m., via Zoom
Elsa Olivetti, MIT, Professor, Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering
"Bridging the gap between literature data extraction and materials informatics"

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