Synthesis of lignin-carbohydrate model compounds and neolignans
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Woody plants are the most abundant renewable resources on the earth. From the paper we consume to the house we live in, our daily lives rely heavily on woody plants. Over the past decades, enormous efforts have been expended to improve the utilization of fiber and wood. For example, much research has been conducted to develop environmentally benign, and economically feasible techniques for pulp and papermaking. The economical conversion of wood to useful sugars and alcohol has also been the subject of intensive research. Investigations aimed at the genetic manipulation of wood growth to better meet our needs are also underway. Nonetheless, harsh pulping and bleaching conditions are still required in the pulp and paper industry, and the bioconversion of polysaccharides in biomass to alcohol is still too expensive. An argument could be put forth that a major reason for this is the lack of basic knowledge concerning the structural and biochemical characteristics of the plant cell wall.
The three major polymeric components of plant cell walls, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, are intimately associated with one another. Cellulose is associated with hemicellulose via non-covalent linkages, whereas lignin is theorized to be associated with cellulose and hemicellulose via both covalent and non-covalent linkages. The nature of associations between wood polymers is still poorly understood. However, it is these intimate associations that make delignification difficult, and make the bioconversion of polysaccharides to alcohol inefficient. It is also believed that the linkages between lignin and polysaccharides are responsible for the reduced digestibility of grasses by ruminants.
- Doctoral Dissertations