Thermoplastic processing of lignin is restricted by its high glass transition temperature (T). In this study, lignin was modified with polyethylene glycol (PEG) during steam explosion to improve its thermoplastic properties, and the effects of steam explosion and PEG on the chemical structure and thermal properties of lignin were investigated. Structure characterization using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy showed that hydroxyl and ether functional groups increased and the activity of lignin was improved by steam explosion. In addition, steam explosion treatment was more effective than heat treatment for promoting the reaction of PEG with lignin. Solid-state C NMR revealed that PEG was grafted onto lignin. The T of raw lignin was 164.1 °C; after steam explosion, lignin exhibited more than one Ts. The T of lignin was reduced when the steam explosion temperature increased and decreased further, to around 60 °C, when PEG was used to modify lignin. Therefore, this work provides an effective approach to reducing the high T of lignin.
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