Lignin Instead of Phenol Formaldehyde Resins

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  • Published: 19 February 2017
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
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Traditionally phenol and formaldehyde containing adhesives are used in wood products such as plywood, laminated veneer lumber, and laminates. There is a drive from society, wood product manufacturers, and the Act on Public Procurement to find bio-based and safe alternatives to these oil-based, toxic and expensive adhesive components.

Hanne Wikberg, Juha Leppävuori, and colleagues, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, have developed the CatLignin technology to produce reactive lignin from pulp industry side streams to be used as a replacement for phenol compounds in wood adhesives that are widely used in wood products and furniture. Unlike existing technologies, the process allows to modify the lignin structure already at the pulp mill. Lignin structure can be tailored and, therefore, optimized specifically for each application.

According to the researchers, CatLignin could become a new, high-value product for pulp mills. In addition, the CO2 footprint of lignin is only approximately 20 % of the footprint of phenol. Replacing phenol with lignin also reduces formaldehyde usage. To put this in context there are currently six million tons of phenol formaldehyde resins produced annually.

The new material brings new business opportunities for the entire value chain, from lignin producers to adhesive and wood product manufacturers and end-users. VTT is currently seeking partners for up scaling and commercialization of the technology. In their opinion, the technology is ideal for actors who want be the forerunners in bringing 100% bio-based engineered wood products to the market.


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