Research groups from three Georgia Tech Schools have teamed up with the Renewable Bioproducts Institute (RBI) to form the Lignin Group.Through this research collaboration, experts from the Schools of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE), Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Industrial & Systems Engineering are seeking to develop cost-efficient, ecologically sustainable processes from lignin to defined chemical compounds.
In order to increase outreach, as well as share research projects and publications, the group recently launched its own website.
“We felt it was very important to have a presence on Georgia Tech’s web platform,” said Thomas Kwok, a ChBE PhD candidate and one of the website’s developers. “We hope our research will both inform and inspire the community to see lignin’s great potential.”
Lignin is a major component of all plants, and it is the second most abundant resource of renewable organic material. Lignin is typically seen as a waste product to be burned as a low value fuel for cellulosic processes. However, the Lignin Group sees the complex aromatic structure as a precursor for fine chemicals and fuels.
“Utilization of lignin for renewable chemicals and fuels will revolutionize both the chemical industry as well as the production of fuels,” said Professor Andreas S. Bommarius, ChBE.
In order for this transformation to take place, the Lignin Group is emphasizing collaboration in both current and future research. This approach has ignited tremendous excitement in graduate students such as Alex Brittain (ChBE).
“I’m looking forward to learning about other lignin research at Tech, as well as in the lignin community as a whole, outside of Tech,” Brittain said. “I know this group is going to give me new connections and insights for my own research on mechanocatalytic depolymerization of lignin.”
This academic year, four new projects for incoming graduate students will be funded through RBI’s Paper Science and Engineering (PSE) Fellowship program, and a research collaboration has been opened with American Process Inc. With individual funding successes, many faculty members said the Lignin Group will provide them with even more opportunities.
“Many government initiatives call for integrated, multidisciplinary concepts,” said Professor Carsten Sievers.“The Lignin Group will position Georgia Tech to successfully compete for such projects.”