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Keywords:

  • lignin–carbohydrate complex (LCC);
  • universal fractionation approach;
  • spruce;
  • NMR ;
  • thioacidolysis;
  • pyrolysis-GC

Summary

It is of both theoretical and practical importance to develop a universally applicable approach for the fractionation and sensitive lignin characterization of lignin–carbohydrate complexes (LCCs) from all types of lignocellulosic biomass, both natively and after various types of processing. In the present study, a previously reported fractionation approach that is applicable for eucalyptus (hardwood) and flax (non-wood) was further improved by introducing an additional step of barium hydroxide precipitation to isolate the mannan-enriched LCC (glucomannan-lignin, GML), in order to suit softwood species as well. Spruce wood was used as the softwood sample. As indicated by the recovery yield and composition analysis, all of the lignin was recovered in three LCC fractions: a glucan-enriched fraction (glucan-lignin, GL), a mannan-enriched fraction (GML) and a xylan-enriched fraction (xylan-lignin, XL). All of the LCCs had high molecular masses and were insoluble or barely soluble in a dioxane/water solution. Carbohydrate and lignin signals were observed in 1H NMR, 13C CP-MAS NMR and normal- or high-sensitivity 2D HSQC NMR analyses. The carbohydrate and lignin constituents in each LCC fraction are therefore believed to be chemically bonded rather than physically mixed with one another. The three LCC fractions were found to be distinctly different from each other in terms of their lignin structures, as revealed by highly sensitive analyses by thioacidolysis-GC, thioacidolysis-SEC and pyrolysis-GC.