Starting out by making the most of lignin

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Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1110-1111
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6226.1110-e

The woody lignin component of biomass, rich in aromatic carbon rings, ultimately could prove a cost-effective source of numerous commodity chemicals. Parsell et al. make a step in that direction with a zinc and palladium catalyst that transforms lignin into a tractable product stream composed predominantly of two phenol derivatives. These in turn can be further transformed by downstream chemistry. The method does not require preliminary isolation of the lignin; rather, it works on minimally pretreated biomass and leaves behind a cellulose component that's easily broken down into fermentable sugars for biofuels production.

Green Chem. 10.1039/c4gc01911c (2014).

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