A sustainable wood biorefinery for low–carbon footprint chemicals production

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Science  20 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6484, pp. 1385-1390
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1567

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Every twig and splinter used

Plant-based production of commodity chemicals faces steep competition from fossil resources, which are often cheaper and easier to partition. Sustainable use of renewable resources requires strategies for converting complex and recalcitrant biomolecules into streams of chemicals with extraordinary efficiency. Liao et al. developed a biorefinery concept in which wood is eventually fully converted into useful chemicals: phenol, propylene, pulp amenable to ethanol production, and phenolic oligomers that can be incorporated into ink production (see the Perspective by Zhang). A life-cycle assessment and techno-economic analysis highlight the efficiency of the process and reveal the potential for such biorefinery strategies to contribute to sustainable chemicals markets.

Science, this issue p. 1385; see also p. 1305

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