Lignin is an aromatic biopolymer involved in providing structural support to plant cell walls. Compared to the other cell wall polymers, i.e., cellulose and hemicelluloses, lignin has been considered a hindrance in cellulosic bioethanol production due to the complexity involved in its separation from other polymers of various biomass feedstocks. Nevertheless, lignin is a potential source of valuable aromatic chemical compounds and upgradable building blocks. Though the biosynthetic pathway of lignin has been elucidated in great detail, the random nature of the polymerization (free radical coupling) process poses challenges for its depolymerization into valuable bioproducts. The absence of specific methodologies for lignin degradation represents an important opportunity for research and development. This review highlights research development in lignin biosynthesis, lignin genetic engineering and different biological and chemical means of depolymerization used to convert lignin into biofuels and bioproducts.

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Published in Energies, v. 8, no. 8, p. 7654-7676.

© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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