Domtar's Biomaterials team and research partners have been focusing time and resources on lignin development – specifically, developing lignin based materials that could eventually serve as sustainable and biodegradable alternatives to petroleum and other fossil fuel based products.
The company recently took another step forward in lignin development and the process of commercialising lignin based applications by investing in Prisma Renewable Composites, which is developing advanced materials from lignin and other natural resources. With this investment, it will help commercialise the process of using lignin to make engineered plastic compounds, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and other high value applications.
‘We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with an industry leading renewable composite company,’ said Mark DeAndrea, Domtar's vice president of Biomaterials. ‘This investment leverages Prisma's scientific research capabilities and unique product development strategy with Domtar's commercialization and lignin production expertise.’
Lignin, the natural glue that holds wood fibres together, is a by-product of the kraft pulping process. Traditionally, lignin has been burned to provide energy to a pulp and paper mill. However, it also has the potential for use in a wide range of industrial applications as a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum and other fossil fuels.
Lignin development and the use of lignin as a biomaterial has gained momentum in the past few years, beginning with the Domtar installation of a commercial scale lignin separation plant in Plymouth, North Carolina, in 2013. Today, it uses extruding equipment to deliver commercial grade lignin in dried, compounded and modified lignin granules/pellets, as well as lignin polymer blends.
The company also recently installed a demonstration plant at a mill in Ontario to showcase lignin pellets as a potential bio alternative to plastic, chemicals and other industrial products. This project has garnered interest from several industries, as well as support from provincial and federal governments, specifically through Natural Resources Canada's Investments in Forest Industry Transformation programme.
‘Innovation is core to Domtar Biomaterials' growth strategy,’ Mark said. ‘Domtar Biomaterials is a bridge between science and commercialisation, and we are very excited by the numerous opportunities we see in lignin.’