Lignin: an adhesive raw material of the future or waste of research energy?
Contribution for newspaper or weekly magazine
mesheuropmc: food and beverages | complex mixtures | fungi | macromolecular substances | technology, industry, and agriculture
Lignin has been studied as an adhesive for more than 100 years, but there are only a few industrial applications. The reason for the current interest is the high availability and low price of lignin. Lignin is the main by-product of paper pulping processes and is typically burned as fuel. Being the natural glue in plants and having a phenolic nature makes lignins an attractive replacement for wood adhesives.<br/>An adhesive system for wood composites consisting mainly of lignin has yet to be developed. Lignin has less reactive sites in the aromatic ring than phenols, and the steric effects caused by the macromolecular structure further hinder its reactivity. The low reactivity leads to slow curing and causes problems in applications where the curing speed is a critical parameter. Modifications such as phenolation, methylolation, and demethylation have been shown to have a positive impact on the reactivity of lignin.<br/>This paper presents properties of particle boards produced using unmodified and oxidized Kraft lignin adhesives. The paper also describes recent research relating to lignin as a base for wood adhesive and discusses the possibilities for future research.<br/>The boards produced with unmodified and modified lignin adhesives under equivalent pressing conditions performed poorly compared to the reference board made with standard UMF adhesive. Oxidation at the correct pH level improved the adhesion of the boards compared with those based on unmodified lignin. Efforts to produce an industrially viable lignin-based adhesive system will continue, and promising combinations of modifications and alternative hardeners are being studied.