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Keywords:

  • biomass;
  • recalcitrance;
  • quantum chemistry;
  • molecular dynamics

Abstract

Lignocellulosic biomass provides a sustainable source of sugars for biofuel and biomaterial production. However, biomass resistance to degradation imposes difficulties for economical conversion of plant carbohydrates to fermentable sugars. One of the key contributors to recalcitrance is lignin. Understanding the properties of lignin macromolecules in the cell wall matrix is useful for manipulating biomass structure to generate more easily degradable biomass. Along with experimental techniques such as 2D-NMR and mass spectrometry, computational techniques can be useful for characterizing the structural and energetic properties of the biomass assembly and its individual constituents. Here, we provide a brief introduction to lignin, review some of the recent, relevant scientific literature, and give our perspectives on the role of molecular simulation in understanding lignin structure. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Environ Prog, 2012