VTT says CatLignin could be high-value product for pulp mills

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, has developed technology called CatLignin to produce reactive lignin from pulp industry side streams, currently used for energy production, to replace toxic phenol compounds in wood adhesives that are widely used in wood products and furniture. There is a drive to find bio-based and safe alternatives to these oilbased, toxic and expensive adhesive components.

VTT says that CatLignin’s superior reactivity makes it an ideal replacement for phenol in phenol formaldehyde resins and could become a new, high-value product for pulp mills. In addition, the CO2 footprint of lignin is only about 20% of the footprint of phenol.

Resins have a significant effect on the CO2 footprint of engineered wood products. For example in plywood, around half the CO2 footprint is caused by the resins. Replacing phenol with lignin also reduces formaldehyde use. To put this in context, there are currently six million tons of phenol formaldehyde resins produced annually.

VTT says the suitability of lignin for a variety of applications has been investigated for decades but only now can it be used as a phenol substitute in significant quantities in resins. The new material brings new business opportunities for the entire value chain including pulp mills, adhesive, wood product and laminate manufacturers and their customers such as kitchen cabinet and furniture brands.

VTT says that unlike existing technologies, the CatLignin process can be integrated into pulp mills so they can tailor and optimize the lignin structure specifically for each application.

CatLignin material is a potential substitute for a wide range of fossil-based chemicals in adhesive, rubber and plastic applications. Its antioxidative properties are expected to improve weather resistance reducing the need for fossil-based and expensive additives used today.

The CatLignin technology development is underway in a project funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, and VTT. VTT is actively seeking partners for the next steps in technology up-scaling and commercialization.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, www.vttresearch.com

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