A two-step process combining percolation-mode ammonia pretreatment of poplar sawdust with mild organosolv purification of the extracted lignin produced high quality, high purity lignin in up to 31% yield and 50% recovery. The uncondensed fraction of the isolated lignin was up to 34%, close to that the native lignin (40%). Less lignin was recovered after pretreatment in batch mode, apparently due to condensation during the longer residence time of the solubilised lignin at elevated temperature. The lignin recovery was directly correlated with its molecular weight and its nitrogen content. Low nitrogen incorporation, observed at high ammonia concentration, may be explained by limited homolytic cleavage of -O-4 bonds. Ammonia concentrations from 15% to 25% (w/w) gave similar results in terms of lignin structure, yield and recovery
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