Research & Innovation
Lignin in polyurethane nears commercial status
Armand Langlois reported at PaperWeek Canada on the progress his company, Enerlab 2000, is making in the development of a polymerization process to incorporate lignin in polyurethane.
By Cindy Macdonald
Enerlab is developing a technology called iso-lignin. The first step, said Langlois, is to condition the lignin (in terms of moisture content, particle size, purity), and then add it to the isocyanate. In the second step, the isocyanate reaction is initiated with either heat, a catalyst or a resin.
Langlois reports that the industrial process implementation in ongoing. Enerlab is installing a dryer, determining drying conditions, optimizing the polyurethane formulation, completing the characterization of the foam and working on the online addition of lignin. Langlois hopes to begin commercial production later this year.
The technology was developed between 2011 and 2014, with the assistance of the National Research Council. A pilot line conducted demonstrations with lignin from four different sources: kraft pulping, organosolv, soda and lignosulfonate.
He explained that bio-foams with up to 20 per cent lignin content have similar performance to conventional foams. The feasibility of these products has been shown on the pilot line, said Langlois, and there is lots of interest from the industry.
He commented that for his process, lignin must be available for $0.50 to $0.75/lb to achieve cost savings versus traditional polyurethane foam.