Comprehensive compositional analysis of plant cell walls (lignocellulosic biomass) part I: Lignin

  • Foster C
  • Martin T
  • Pauly M
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Abstract

The need for renewable, carbon neutral, and sustainable raw materials for industry and society has become one of the most pressing issues for the 21st century. This has rekindled interest in the use of plant products as industrial raw materials for the production of liquid fuels for transportation(2) and other products such as biocomposite materials(6). Plant biomass remains one of the greatest untapped reserves on the planet(4). It is mostly comprised of cell walls that are composed of energy rich polymers including cellulose, various hemicelluloses, and the polyphenol lignin(5) and thus sometimes termed lignocellulosics. However, plant cell walls have evolved to be recalcitrant to degradation as walls contribute extensively to the strength and structural integrity of the entire plant. Despite its necessary rigidity, the cell wall is a highly dynamic entity that is metabolically active and plays crucial roles in numerous cell activities such as plant growth and differentiation(5). Due to the various functions of walls, there is an immense structural diversity within the walls of different plant species and cell types within a single plant(4). Hence, depending of what crop species, crop variety, or plant tissue is used for a biorefinery, the processing steps for depolymerisation by chemical/enzymatic processes and subsequent fermentation of the various sugars to liquid biofuels need to be adjusted and optimized. This fact underpins the need for a thorough characterization of plant biomass feedstocks. Here we describe a comprehensive analytical methodology that enables the determination of the composition of lignocellulosics and is amenable to a medium to high-throughput analysis (Figure 1). The method starts of with preparing destarched cell wall material. The resulting lignocellulosics are then split up to determine its monosaccharide composition of the hemicelluloses and other matrix polysaccharides1, and its content of crystalline cellulose(7). The protocol for analyzing the lignin components in lignocellulosic biomass is discussed in Part I(3).

Author-supplied keywords

  • biomass
  • compositional analysis
  • gc-ms
  • issue 37
  • lignin
  • plant biology
  • plant cell walls

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Authors

  • Cliff E Foster

  • Tina M Martin

  • Markus Pauly

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