Antioxidant activity is an essential aspect of oxygen-sensitive merchandise and goods, such as food and corresponding packaging, cosmetics, and biomedicine. Technical lignin has not yet been applied as a natural antioxidant, mainly due to the complex heterogeneous structure and polydispersity of lignin. This report presents antioxidant capacity studies completed using the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay. The influence of purification on lignin structure and activity was investigated. The purification procedure showed that double-fold selective extraction is the most efficient (confirmed by ultraviolet-visible (UV/Vis), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), heteronuclear single quantum coherence (HSQC) and 31
P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, size exclusion chromatography, and X-ray diffraction), resulting in fractions of very narrow polydispersity (3.2–1.6), up to four distinct absorption bands in UV/Vis spectroscopy. Due to differential scanning calorimetry measurements, the glass transition temperature increased from 123 to 185 °C for the purest fraction. Antioxidant capacity is discussed regarding the biomass source, pulping process, and degree of purification. Lignin obtained from industrial black liquor are compared with beech wood samples: antioxidant activity (DPPH inhibition) of kraft lignin fractions were 62–68%, whereas beech and spruce/pine-mixed lignin showed values of 42% and 64%, respectively. Total phenol content (TPC) of the isolated kraft lignin fractions varied between 26 and 35%, whereas beech and spruce/pine lignin were 33% and 34%, respectively. Storage decreased the TPC values but increased the DPPH inhibition.
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