A-Z Knowledge on Wood-derived Chemicals

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Wood Cellulose

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Lignin from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Sugars from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Extractives from Wood

Wood Chemistry Reinventing Polymers for a Greener Future

Biopolymers Derived from Wood Extractives

Bio-based Polymers Derived from Wood-based Lignin

Bio-based Polymers Derived from Wood-based Lignin

Paper-making and other wood-pulping processes produce 70 million tons of lignin byproduct each year, 98% of which is incinerated to generate energy. Lignin can also be an important source of synthetic materials because of its:

  • Abundance in nature
  • Low cost
  • Stable supply, and
  • No competition to the human food supply

Lignin, a cross-linked phenolic polymer, contains a large number of aromatic groups that can be used as a substitute for petroleum‐based aromatic fine chemicals.

Benefits of Lignin

Explore the following bio-material advances from wood-based lignin.

Lignin-based Composites

Mixing lignin with natural fibers such as flax, hemp or other fiber plants and some natural additive produces lignin-based fiber composites. These can be processed on conventional plastics processing machines. Lignin-based composites can be used for the manufacture of various products such as computer, television or mobile phone casings.

Wood-based lignin can also be used as a copolymer in Bio-composites. Poly-lactide (PLA) is a biodegradable polymer formed from the polymerization of microbially produced lactic acid.

However, PLA confers low physical properties such as impact strength, small elongation at break, suboptimal thermal properties. The development of lignin/PLA composites can contribute to boosting the thermal and mechanical properties of PLA.

Wood-based Lignin alternative to Bisphenol A

Wood-based lignin a highly available renewable resource, can also be a safer, greener alternative to bisphenol A (BPA) in various applications:

  • Adhesives
  • Coatings
  • Electronic equipment
  • Food packaging, and
  • Containers

Approximately 3.5 million tons of BPA are produced annually worldwide. The downside is that bisphenol A can mimic the hormone estrogen, potentially affecting the body and brain.

Researchers have found that lignin fragments can be converted into a compound called bis-guaiacol-F (BGF), which has a similar shape to BPA. R&D developments are ongoing to design BGF which cannot interfere with hormones but can keep the desirable thermal and mechanical properties of BPA.

Lignin-based Bio-adhesivesLignin-based Adhesives

Due to its abundant presence of phenolic groups, wood-based lignin can potentially replace phenol in phenol–formaldehyde (PF) resins in wood composite adhesives. Such adhesives can be used in the production of plywood, particle board and other kinds of wood composites. PF is highly toxic chemical and an irritant to the eyes and respiratory tract. Moreover, PF resins can be very expensive, because of the fluctuating price of phenol. Therefore, replacing current synthetic PF resins based on petrochemicals offers great economic and health benefits.

Lignin-based Adsorbents

Lignin-derived products can be used as adsorbents of selected heavy metals and toxic organic compounds. Black liquor lignin from the pulp and paper industry can be used as a precursor for activated carbon. The lignin is carbonized in an oxygen-free atmosphere and the resulting carbon is then activated with steam. The resulting lignin-based activated carbon is considered to have the potential for use in dye wastewater treatment.

Lignin-acrylamide-based Flocculant

Chemically modified lignin can be used as a flocculant. Flocculants, often positively charged molecules, are used to remove suspended solids from liquids by forming aggregates of colloids and other suspended particles that precipitate and play an important role in wastewater treatment and the removal of contaminants to prepare potable water.

Environmentally friendly flocculants that are nontoxic and biodegradable are highly desirable. Acrylamide grafted onto a lignin backbone has flocculant properties. The positively charged lignin-acrylamide has the ability to coagulate aluminum and enhance the removal efficiency of dissolved organic carbon.

Lignin-based Carbon Fiber Composite MaterialLignin-based Carbon Materials

Lignin can be used as a precursor for carbon fibers as an alternative to high-cost precursors such as polyacrylonitrile (PAN). Moreover, the impact on the environment caused by toxic by-products such as hydrogen cyanide (during PAN processing) has raised serious concerns. Renewable, bio-based alternatives for carbon precursors are being developed, and the carbonized structure of lignin allows it to be used as renewable, low-cost graphitic carbon materials.

Lignin-based carbon materials such as fibers, mats, nanofibers, and mesoporous carbon have been successfully developed by a number of research groups.

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Sugars

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Cellulose

Barriers to the Development of Wood Biomass-derived Bio-products

Feedstock Related Barriers

Technology Related Barriers

Market Related Barriers

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