Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

Lignin Chemistry

The Lignin Chemistry research group is led by Prof. Mikhail Balakshin. The core of our activity are practical issues of lignin valorization.
Image shows a road that leads out of the forest. On the road there is a sheme of the macromolecule lignin shown and there is a street sign indicating the end of the fossil resource era and the beginning of the biorefinery era.

Our Research areas:

  1. Lignin Analytics 

  2. Lignin Engineering

  3. Integrated Biorefinery

Our core knowledge is in deep understanding of lignin chemistry and technology. We are working on engineering of optimal lignins for specific applications by elucidating the correlation between process conditions, lignin structure, lignin properties and application performance. To achieve this challenging, yet very important task, we cooperate with artificial intelligence groups and application experts at our Department, University and worldwide.

Our research areas in images:

    This image shows the route to biomass valorization informed by artificial intelligence.

    Lignin Engineering: Process, Structure, Properties, and Application Performance

    For more information click here:https://doi.org/10.1002/cssc.202002553

    The image shows a new model of spruce lignin

    Lignin Analytics: New Model of Spruce Lignin

    For more information click here: https://doi.org/10.1039/D0GC00926A

    Image shows the process of producing lignin micro-nanoparticles by an aerosol flow reactor

    Integrated biorefinery: lignin micro-/nanoparticles from biorefinery lignin

    For more information click here:https://doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.9b06511

    Lignin is the only large renewable source of green aromatic chemicals and polymers and therefore the key player in the modern and future biorefinery. However, lignin commercialization for high-value products is very challenging due to its very complex nature and the high variety of different technical lignins. Our group is addressing this challenge by developing best lignin types for specific applications via understanding the correlation between process conditions, lignin structures and properties and their performance in specific applications using advanced methodology (new biorefinery processes, cutting-edge analytics, artificial intelligence).

    We are looking for further fruitful cooperation with different groups working in various areas of lignin production and applications in academia, research institutes and industry.

    1. Lignin Analytics

    We focus on state-of-the-art analysis of lignin and lignin carbohydrate complexes

      The image shows an Overview of NMR Methods needed for lignin analysis

      Comparison of Different NMR Methods:

      • These methods are complementary;

      • The best method is dependent on the research task and substrate type

      The image shows two 13C NMR spectra of aspen milled wood lignin

      Lignin structure on a functional level can be described comprehensively by advanced 13C NMR.

      For more information click here:https://doi.org/10.1039/C5RA16649G

      2D and 3D NMR technique

      Heteronuclear Single Quantum Coherence (HSQC) Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy

      Lignin engineering, cycle

      2. Lignin Engineering:

      Lignin valorization requires tremendous analytical efforts and method development including lignin structural analysis and, especially, high‐throughput methods for the evaluation of lignin performance in specific applications.

      New and comprehensive lignin structure–performance relationships are urgently needed in order to be able to engineer lignins and lignin properties to certain application requirements.

      3. Integrated Biorefinery

      We focus on:

      • Full valorization of the feedstock
      • Ligno-cellulosic synergism in biorefinery streams

        CHEM/BIO/Biorefineries

        Integrated biorefinery: full valorization of the feedstock

        One-pot lignin upgrade  by reactive extraction

        One-pot reactive extraction of lignin - an efficient strategy for producing upgraded lignins

        Current group members:

         Mikhail Balakshin

        Mikhail Balakshin

        Head of the group, Professor of Practice
         Philipp Schlee

        Philipp Schlee

        Postdoctoral researcher
         Dmitry Tarasov

        Dmitry Tarasov

        Postdoctoral researcher
         Daryna Diment

        Daryna Diment

        PhD student
         Jéssica de Souza Rodrigues

        Jéssica de Souza Rodrigues

        PhD student (visiting)
         Yuliya Popova

        Yuliya Popova

        PhD student (visiting)
         Madina Muratova

        Madina Muratova

        Research assistant

        Our alumni:

         Nerea Abad Fernandez

        Nerea Abad Fernandez

         Tainise Vergara Lourençon

        Tainise Vergara Lourençon

         Carlos Eduardo Silveira

        Carlos Eduardo Silveira

         Zhu Xuhai

        Zhu Xuhai

        Collaboration

        We collaborate with:

        Our collaborators

        Joakim Löfgren

        Postdoctoral Researcher
         Assistant Professor Mika Sipponen

        Assistant Professor Mika Sipponen

        Head of Stockholm University's Sipponen Lab
         Adrian Moreno Guerra

        Adrian Moreno Guerra

        Postdoctoral Fellow, Stockholm University's Sipponen Lab
         Ewellyn Capanema

        Ewellyn Capanema

        Principal Scientist, RISE
         María José Cocero Alonso

        María José Cocero Alonso

        Director, Valladolid University's Institute of Bioeconomy
         Eduardo Perez Velilla

        Eduardo Perez Velilla

        Valladolid University's Institute of Bioeconomy
         Tijana Adamovich

        Tijana Adamovich

        Valladolid University's Institute of Bioeconomy
         Antje Potthast

        Antje Potthast

        Professor, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
         Thomas Rosenau

        Thomas Rosenau

        Professor, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
         Irina Sulaeva

        Irina Sulaeva

        Researcher, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
         Andrey Pranovich

        Andrey Pranovich

        Senior Researcher, Åbo Akademi's Laboratory of Natural Materials Technology
         Chunlin Xu

        Chunlin Xu

        Professor, Åbo Akademi's Laboratory of Natural Materials Technology
         Kyösti Ruuttunen

        Kyösti Ruuttunen

        Senior University Lecturer in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems
         Luiz Greca

        Luiz Greca

        Doctoral candidate in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

        Related content:

        New Academy Projects to be launched in September

        New Academy Projects funded by the Academy of Finland involve expertise from all six Aalto schools

        Organ type of image with white "veins" and small bacteria dots in red background, original image by Valeria Azovskaya

        Latest publications:

        The image shows a road that splits into three parts. One leading to Sugar and Bioethanol one to high value products like carbon fibers and one to manmade fibers

        New Opportunities in the Valorization of Technical Lignins (external link)

        Most recent review paper published by the Lignin Chemistry Group

        Picture shows a flow chart from hydrothermal treatment to lignin micro/nanoparticles via an aerosol flow process

        Low-Cost Biorefinery Particles from hydrothermally treated birch wood (external link)

        Micro- and nanoparticles from biorefinery lignins by using an aerosol flow system

        The term Research database with an open book is shown

        More publications (external link)

        Click here for more publications (Ligning Chemistry)

        In memoriam Professor of Practice Mikhail Balakshin

        Professor of Practice Mikhail Balakshin passed away at his home after a long illness on November 27, 2022. He was Professor of Lignin Chemistry at the Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering beginning in 2018.

        Read more about Prof. Balakshin's working life and accomplishments
        Mikhail Balakshin
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