Biomass offers considerable advantages in the form of bioenergy over conventional fossil fuels. It may be attributed to its renewability and carbon neutrality that makes it a source of cleaner fuel and high-value chemicals. However, it is worth noticing that majority of high-efficiency processes reported for value added chemicals from bio-renewable resources have utilized biomass-derived molecules instead of direct utilization of lignocellulosic biomass due presence of binding material lignin. Therefore, lignin removal and its subsequent conversion in high-value chemicals are recommended prior to conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose. In general, conversion of lignin into useful products usually requires the presence of a metal catalyst for hydrogenation/hydrodeoxygenation reaction whereas conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose a combination of Lewis and Brønsted acid sites. However, lignin conversion is a challenging task owing to its complex and not well-known structure which makes screening and selection of catalysts difficult.
Thus, an integrated approach to screen basic units in present in lignin followed by novel strategy for catalytic conversion of lignocellulosic biomass including lignin in platform chemicals such as HMF, Sorbitol, FDCA and lignin derived aromatics in the presence of metal-containing a multifunctional catalyst. In this regard, lignocellulosic biomass and lignin characterization methods will be developed under supervision of Prof. Robert Henry at QAAFI, QU, Australia. Subsequently, multifunctional catalysts will be developed under supervision of Prof. K.K. Pant for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass and lignin into aromatics and platform chemicals such as 5 HMF, Sorbitol, FDCA. Since, India and Australia both are under top 10 sugarcane producing countries, thus development of sustainable technologies for lignocellulosic biomass sugarcane bagasse conversion will lead to development of futuristic biorefineries with zero waste approach. It is expected that successful completion and implementation of this project will affect 55 million Indian population positively who are directly or indirectly associated with sugar industries. As later part of this project, production of lignin rich sugarcane bagasse under supervision of Prof. Robert henry will be undertaken if required.
The overall outcome would be a zero-waste sustainable technology for lignin and lignocellulosic biomass sugarcane bagasse conversion for immediate application in sugarcane industries worldwide. Nevertheless, there would be several direct and indirect deliverables/outcomes of the proposed project. Some of the major outcomes are as follows:
- Standard protocol for lignin and biomass characterization
- Novel catalysts materials for lignin and lignocellulosic biomass conversion
- Technology for lignin and lignocellulosic biomass conversion
- Standard protocol for lignin and lignocellulosic biomass derived products analysis
- Techno-economic feasibility study of the developed process
- Roadmap for conversion of other agricultural residues such as wheat crops residues, maze residues, etc.