Ludo Diels, VITO, is a lignin researcher and provided an in-depth presentation titled "Lignin valorization by making biobased aromatic chemicals and materials." at the 2018 BIOFOR International conference.
"There is a bright future for lignin. It is available and demand is growing. Sources for lignin include pulping processes and production of second generation ethanol. There is an array of products like concrete additives, resins, glues, composites and vanillin that can be produced using lignin as raw material.
"Lignin is an interesting substance due to its chemical composition which allows it to be used for many applications. The drivers in this development are chemicals and materials produced from lignin in various forms. Economic factors are important as some applications are commodities competing with oil based products, whereas added value applications are highly priced and therefore less sensitive.
"Brand owners are very important as they can drive development and bring forest and chemical industries together. It is critical to scale up development and bring more commercial products into the market. An important collaboration for the development is between chemical and forest industries.
"Lignin is a feedstock for aromatics and there are a number of methods to fractionate, depolymerise and separate lignin polymers and monomers. Depending on process, different building blocks based on lignin are obtained. The result is a wide range of chemicals and materials.
"It is crucial to undertake a toxicity assessment as soon as we have a new molecule. It is therefore important to know the compositions of different lignin products."
For more information, readers invited to visit the BIOFOR 2018 website to view the presentation.