Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Pre-treatment of lignocellulosic feedstocks using biorenewable alcohols: towards complete biomass valorisation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Open Access permissions



Christopher S. Lancefield, Isabella Panovic, Peter J. Deuss, Katalin Barta, Nicholas J. Westwood

School/Research organisations


Here, we report on the ability of the biomass derived solvents ethanol and, in particular, n-butanol to fractionate lignocellulose into its main components. An organosolv system consisting of n-butanol containing 5% water and 0.2 M HCl at reflux was found to remove effectively the lignin and hemicellulose components of lignocellulosic biomass leaving a cellulose pulp suitable for enzymatic hydrolysis to simple sugars. Using a hardwood beech pulp as an example, essentially complete conversion of the cellulose component to reducing sugars was achieved with a cellulase loading of 22 FPU per g. Analysis of the solubilised hemicellulose fractions revealed that they consist almost exclusively of alkyl xylosides and mannosides which could serve as valuable synthetic building blocks. Additionally, the mild conditions (<120 °C) and high alcohol content of the pre-treatment solvent suppressed lignin degradation reactions and allowed for the isolation of high quality lignins in good yields. Detailed HSQC NMR analysis of the isolated lignins revealed that they still contained large amounts of β-aryl ether units, especially α-ethoxylated and α-butoxylated β-O-4 units, making them particularly suitable for depolymerisation to mono-aromatic chemicals. This was demonstrated using a recently reported acidolysis method utilizing ethylene glycol which gave monomer yields of between 7.4 and 18 wt%. The yields for n-butanol lignins were at least four fold higher than those obtained from a current generation technical organosolv lignin under comparable conditions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-214
Number of pages13
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number1
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2017

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Copper-mediated conversion of complex ethers to esters: enabling biopolymer depolymerisation under mild conditions

    Westwood, N. J., Xiao, G., Montgomery, J., Lancefield, C. S. & Panovic, I., 21 Apr 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Chemistry - A European Journal. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Preparation and reaction of β-O-4 γ-aldehyde-containing butanosolv lignins

    Panovic, I., Miles-Barrett, D. M., Lancefield, C. S. & Westwood, N. J., 15 Jul 2019, In : ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering. 7, 14, p. 12098-12104 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Selective depolymerisation of γ-oxidised lignin via NHC catalysed redox esterification

    Xiao, G., Lancefield, C. & Westwood, N. J., 11 Jun 2019, In : ChemCatChem. Early View

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Selective primary alcohol oxidation of lignin streams from butanol-pretreated agricultural waste biomass

    Panovic, I., Lancefield, C. S., Phillips, D., Gronnow, M. J. & Westwood, N. J., 24 Jan 2019, In : CHEMSUSCHEM. 12, 2, p. 542-548 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Bacterial catabolism of β-hydroxypropiovanillone and β-hydroxypropiosyringone produced in the reductive cleavage of arylglycerol-β-aryl ether in lignin

    Higuchi, Y., Aoki, S., Takenami, H., Kamimura, N., Takahashi, K., Hishiyama, S., Lancefield, C. S., Ojo, O. S., Katayama, Y., Westwood, N. J. & Masai, E., Apr 2018, In : Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 84, 7, e02670-17.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Is oxidation-reduction a real robust strategy for lignin conversion? A comparative study on lignin and model compounds

    Guo, H., Miles-Barrett, D., Zhang, B., Wang, A-Q., Zhang, T., Westwood, N. J. & Li, C., 21 Feb 2019, In : Green Chemistry. 21, 4, p. 803-811

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs from cardanol derived from cashew nut shell liquid

    Shi, Y., Kamer, P. C. J. & Cole-Hamilton, D. J., 7 Mar 2019, In : Green Chemistry. 21, 5, p. 1043-1053 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Evaluating polymer-supported isothiourea catalysis in industrially-preferable solvents for the acylative kinetic resolution of secondary and tertiary heterocyclic alcohols in batch and flow

    Guha, N., Neyya Ppadath, R. M., Greenhalgh, M., Chisholm, R., Smith, S., McEvoy, M., Rodríguez-Escrich, C., Young, C. M., Pericas, M. A., Hähner, G. & Smith, A. D., 24 Aug 2018, In : Green Chemistry. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Iridium-catalysed primary alcohol oxidation and hydrogen shuttling for the depolymerisation of lignin

    Lancefield, C. S., Teunissen, L. W., Weckhuysen, B. M. & Bruijnincx, P. C. A., 21 Jul 2018, In : Green Chemistry. 20, 14, p. 3214-3221 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Microplasma-assisted electrochemical synthesis of Co3O4 nanoparticles in absolute ethanol for energy applications

    Ni, C., Carolan, D., Rocks, C., Hui, J., Fang, Z., Padmanaban, D. B., Ni, J-P., Xie, D., Maguire, P., Irvine, J. T. S. & Mariotti, D., 7 May 2018, In : Green Chemistry. 20, 9, p. 2101-2109 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 246489789