In South Korea, a research team from the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST unveiled a novel biomass conversion technology, a fusion catalytic system that can selectively convert lignin, that can turn forestry biomass residues (i.e., sawdust from timber logging) into higher value fuels and chemicals via solar energy.
At present, the process of extracting lignin from biomass is handled via Anthraquinone Process. However, due to high-pressure hydrogen condition and precious metal catalysts, this was not suitable for use with enzymes.
The research team solved this issue via the development of a compartmented photo-electro-biochemical system for unassisted, selective, and stable lignin valorisation. The main advantage of this system is that it involves three catalytic systems (a photocatalyst for photovoltage generation, an electrocatalyst for H2O2 production, and a biocatalyst for lignin valorisation) that are integrated for selective lignin dimer valorisation upon irradiation with sunlight without the need for electrical energy or additional chemicals.