Alternatives for chemical and biochemical lignin valorization: Hot topics from a bibliometric analysis of the research published during the 2000-2016 period
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A complete bibliometric analysis of the Scopus database was performed to identify the research trends related to lignin valorization from 2000 to 2016. The results from this analysis revealed an exponentially increasing number of publications and a high relevance of interdisciplinary collaboration. The simultaneous valorization of the three main components of lignocellulosic biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) has been revealed as a key aspect and optimal pretreatment is required for the subsequent lignin valorization. Research covers the determination of the lignin structure, isolation, and characterization; depolymerization by thermal and thermochemical methods; chemical, biochemical and biological conversion of depolymerized lignin; and lignin applications. Most methods for lignin depolymerization are focused on the selective cleavage of the β-O-4 linkage. Although many depolymerization methods have been developed, depolymerization with sodium hydroxide is the dominant process at industrial scale. Oxidative conversion of lignin is the most used method for the chemical lignin upgrading. Lignin uses can be classified according to its structure into lignin-derived aromatic compounds, lignin-derived carbon materials and lignin-derived polymeric materials. There are many advances in all approaches, but lignin-derived polymeric materials appear as a promising option.