We need more sustainable materials to help our planet. Bio-derived materials are one option. But they must be economical in terms of usage.
A better bio-based milk jug can be great. But milk sells for $20 per gallon. As the cost of the jug increases from $1 to $17.
University of Delaware researchers have kept this type of economics in mind. They searched for ways to upcycle biomass into new products. Lignin is a component of plants and trees. It will provide strength and stiffness which will help the flora stand up.
In the pulp and paper industry, lignin is a waste left over from making paper products. It is called technical lignin. It is considered something that isn’t usable. But is can burn for heat or to add to tires as filler.
UD researchers said it is a widely available resource. There is 100 million tons of technical lignin waste which is generated annually in pulp and paper mills.
Scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to turn industrially processed lignin into high-performance plastics. It includes bio-based 3D-printing resins and valuable chemicals. A paper has described in Science Advances. The research was funded by National Science Foundation Growing Convergence Research program.
Everyday ingredient overcomes high-pressure hurdle
To upgrade lignin, scientists need high pressures. But there are some major drawbacks of current industrial techniques such as the safety concerns. Scientists wanted to overcome these challenges. They replaced methanol with glycerin and the process could be done at normal atmospheric pressure.
Glycerin is an inexpensive ingredient used many things. Here, helps break down the lignin into chemical building blocks. These blocks can be used to make a broad range of bio-based products. These products include 3D-printing resins to different types of plastics.
Glycerin provided the same chemical functionality as methanol. It can work at a much lower vapor pressure. This eliminates the need for a closed system. This change allowed the researchers to do the reaction.