Polymers (Basel). 2023 Jul 26;15(15):3177. doi: 10.3390/polym15153177.
The recycling of biomass into high-value-added materials requires important developments in research and technology to create a sustainable circular economy. Lignin, as a component of biomass, is a multipurpose aromatic polymer with a significant potential to be used as a renewable bioresource in many fields in which it acts both as promising biopolymer and bioactive compound. This comprehensive review gives brief insights into the recent research and technological trends on the potential of lignin development and utilization. It is divided into ten main sections, starting with an outlook on its diversity; main properties and possibilities to be used as a raw material for fuels, aromatic chemicals, plastics, or thermoset substitutes; and new developments in the use of lignin as a bioactive compound and in nanoparticles, hydrogels, 3D-printing-based lignin biomaterials, new sustainable biomaterials, and energy production and storage. In each section are presented recent developments in the preparation of lignin-based biomaterials, especially the green approaches to obtaining nanoparticles, hydrogels, and multifunctional materials as blends and bio(nano)composites; most suitable lignin type for each category of the envisaged products; main properties of the obtained lignin-based materials, etc. Different application categories of lignin within various sectors, which could provide completely sustainable energy conversion, such as in agriculture and environment protection, food packaging, biomedicine, and cosmetics, are also described. The medical and therapeutic potential of lignin-derived materials is evidenced in applications such as antimicrobial, antiviral, and antitumor agents; carriers for drug delivery systems with controlled/targeting drug release; tissue engineering and wound healing; and coatings, natural sunscreen, and surfactants. Lignin is mainly used for fuel, and, recently, studies highlighted more sustainable bioenergy production technologies, such as the supercapacitor electrode, photocatalysts, and photovoltaics.