Synaptic Connections Newsletter 2019 Week#22
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
May 27, 2019 www.Synapticpackaging.com Image - Memorial Day
Week#22 of 2019 Hello, and I hope you are enjoying a nice Memorial Day holiday. Today is such a special day when we give thanks to those who have served. Your sacrifices are valued, and we appreciate the life and freedoms that we enjoy due to your protection and service for our country.
Keeping with our topic on Natural Renewable Materials, today, we are honored to have a guest author on Synaptic Connections. Tony Bova, the CEO and founder of Mobius will provide us with a brief introduction to lignin and some of the emerging developments with this natural material.
==== Next to cellulose, Lignin is second most abundant natural polymer in the world, and is found in all trees and woody plants and grasses as the "glue" that holds plant cell walls together and lets them grow tall. If you think of a tree like the construction of a building, lignin surrounds cellulose fibers in the same way that concrete surrounds strong steel rebar.
Lignin is produced as a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry, as well as the biofuel industry, at an estimated rate of about 100 million tons per year globally. These industries use a variety of thermal, mechanical, and chemical methods to remove lignin from cellulose and hemicellulose in biomass to make high-quality fibers or to break down cellulose and hemicellulose into sugars for biofuels and other fermentation-based biotech applications. The majority of the lignin removed during this process is burned, with only about 2% being extracted from these processes and sold to be converted into other products.
Lignin is the number one source of renewable aromatic chemical structures on the planet, which drives a lot of research and attention towards finding ways to use that rich chemical makeup for some of the same applications that are currently only accessible from petroleum. When extracted from plants and dried, lignin is a light-brown to black powder that resembles cinnamon. Some of the applications currently on the market today are phenolic resins and adhesives to make more sustainable plywood and related construction materials, it is used as a filler for asphalts and concrete to improve toughness, and has potential as a feedstock for renewable polymers as well.
One of the major benefits to lignin is that it is generally low in cost, with market prices for different grades as low as $400-500 per ton. This low cost, however, is balanced out by the major challenge for lignin, which is its heterogeneity. Every species of tree and plant produces a different type of lignin, and every method to remove lignin from these plants changes the physical and chemical characteristics in a different way. Historically it has been very challenging to have consistent feedstocks of lignin that can meet the requirements of chemical and material producers. This is changing, however. There is a growing trend in technology development for biomass fractionation that is designed around preserving the quality and consistency of lignin, with the idea that biomass production should be capable of using 100% of the harvested plant, in what's called an integrated biorefinery. These new technologies are now seeing early pilot and small commercial installations happening worldwide, increasing the supply of consistent-quality lignins for researchers and innovative companies to focus on new conversion technologies for things like biochemicals and biopolymers. ===
Wow - Thanks Tony for sharing with us some insights on lignin! We are very excited to support your team at Mobius and to see how advances in lignin technologies can help us create a more sustainable future!
Have a great week everyone!
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