Lignin-Based Thermosets with Tunable Mechanical and Morphological Properties : A Study of Structure-Property Relationships
Abstract: Nowadays, there is an urgent need to decrease our dependence on fossilresources and shift towards the use of renewable resources for advancingsustainable development. Utilizing renewable and bio-based raw materials,such as lignocellulosic biomass, for designing new materials is a promisingapproach to promote this objective. The main components of lignocellulosicbiomass are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Lignin is the most abundantaromatic biopolymer in nature and it is produced on a large scale fromchemical pulping processes as technical lignin. Lignin has the potential as asustainable and renewable alternative to fossil-based aromatics in variousapplications, e.g. thermosetting resins.Technical lignin has a complex and heterogeneous structure, with arelatively low chemical reactivity. It is characterized by a high dispersity, thepresence of various functional groups that are unevenly distributed along thelignin chains, and various interunit linkages between the monoaromatics. Toovercome the challenges associated with lignin heterogeneity, technicallignin can be fractionated and/or chemically modified.In this work, LignoBoost Kraft lignin was used as a starting material toproduce lignin-based thiol-ene thermosets. Firstly, lignin was fractionatedusing two approaches: 1) sequential solvent fractionation, and 2) microwaveassistedextraction. These fractionation approaches enabled access to ligninfractions with unique and tunable properties. Subsequently, lignin waschemically modified, in particular through allylation. Two allylation reagentswere used: allyl chloride and diallyl carbonate. The use of allyl chlorideenables a selective allylation of the phenolic OH groups, leaving the aliphaticand carboxylic acid OH groups unmodified. On the other hand, diallylcarbonate can react with all the aforementioned OH groups, leading to ahigher degree of allylation. Subsequently, allylated lignin was thermallycross-linked with various polyfunctional thiols, leading to thiol-enethermosets. The structure-property relationships of the thermosets wereinvestigated by varying several parameters, including the lignin source,fractionation approach, chemical modification, and thiol cross-linker. Byadjusting these parameters, various thermosets with tunable mechanical andmorphological properties were produced. Understanding the structurepropertyrelationships of these bio-based materials is crucial for identifyingpotential applications.
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