Enzymatic synthesis of lignin-based concrete dispersing agents
Lignin is the most abundant aromatic biopolymer, functioning as an integral component of woody materials. In its unmodified form it shows limited water solubility and is relatively unreactive, so biotechnological lignin valorisation for high-performance applications is greatly underexploited. Lignin can be obtained from the pulp and paper industry as a by-product. To expand its application, a new synthesis route to new dispersing agents for use as concrete additives was developed. The route is based on lignin functionalisation by enzymatic transformation. Screening of lignin-modifying systems resulted in functionalised lignin polymers with improved solubility in aqueous systems. Through grafting of sulfanilic acid or p-aminobenzoic acid by fungal laccases, lignin became soluble in water at pHâ¤4 or pHâ¤7, respectively. Products were analysed and evaluated in miniaturised application tests in cement paste and mortar. Their dispersing properties match the performance criteria of commercially available lignosulfonates. The study provides examples of new perspectives for the use of lignin.