What is Lignin – everything you need to knowAugust 23, 2023
Lignovations Triumphs in IFSCC Sustainability ChallengeSeptember 7, 2023
When you stroll through a forest, you are surrounded by a marvel of nature’s engineering – trees. These towering giants provide us with oxygen, shelter, and countless resources, but have you ever wondered what gives them their strength and structure? The answer lies within one of nature’s most abundant and fascinating organic compounds – lignin.
Join us as we venture into the woods to explore the origins and significance of lignin, the substance that fortifies and shapes the mighty trees.
What is Lignin?
Lignin is a complex organic polymer that provides structural support and strength to plants. It is one of the most abundant organic compounds on earth and is an essential component of plant cell walls. While cellulose and hemicellulose are responsible for providing rigidity and flexibility to plants, lignin gives them the necessary rigidity and protection against microbial attacks. It makes vegetables crunchy, puts the “fiber” in our food, regulates the transport of liquid in a plant and helps trees grow taller.
Nearly 50 million tons of lignin are produced by industry worldwide annually – 98% are used for energy (i.e. burnt) and only 2% are further processed for use in end products such as in bioplastics, carbon fiber, glues, asphalt, cosmetics, food, packaging and coatings.
Where Does Lignin Come from?
Take a walk in the woods and (almost) all you see is lignin. Lignin is found in various plant sources, including trees, bushes and even flowers. In a scientific context, it is talked about hardwood, softwood, and herbaceous plants. Hardwoods, such as oak and maple, have a higher lignin content compared to softwoods like pine and spruce. Grasses and agricultural residues, also contain lignin, although in much lower quantities. In general, it can be said that the more rigid the plant, the more lignin it contains.
One can see that there is a lot of lignin in our nature. But as we know, plants do not only consist of lignin, but also of cellulose and hemicellulose. To get the lignin out of the plant, different methods are applied. There are many different ways to separate the different components of biomass.
Traditionally, lignin was treated as a waste material that was burnt for energy extraction. Recently a new generation of biorefineries is focusing on a sustainable processing that enables the functional use of all components including lignin. One of the most sustainable methods is using a biorefinery.
Lignovations‘ Lignin Source
Here at Lignovations we use birch wood directly from our biorefinery supplier. Our partner produces lignin with minimal ecological impact and decreased chemical use. They use locally sourced wood industry residues like sawdust, woodchips and low-quality stem wood. Furthermore, the forests they receive the material from are certified, which ensures tracking back each flake of wood to secure international best management practices and forestry regulations.
Let’s talk Lignin
If you have any questions regarding this blog post or the about the usage of lignin in your products, please feel free to contact our team. We are always happy to talk about lignin – our favorite biopolymer and help find new application areas for our partners.