Skip to main content

EUCAlyptus LIgnin VAlorisation for Advanced Materials and Carbon Fibres

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EUCALIVA (EUCAlyptus LIgnin VAlorisation for Advanced Materials and Carbon Fibres)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-02-29

Lignin from pulping process is present all over Europe and represents a big source of underexploited material. There is an estimated 70 million tonnes of lignin available. Until now only about 2% of the lignins available in the pulp and paper industry is commercially used.
The current lack of competitiveness of bio-based technologies against other industrial (far more polluting) sources requires further development and optimisation of innovative processes that are cost-effective and resource-efficient.
EUCALIVA project intends to create a valorisation chain of the lignin fraction, using Eucalyptus globulus waste as a source. This will position new bio-based materials closer to the market, aiming at progressively substituting those from petrochemical origin (aligning with the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe). Currently these wastes are destined for energy applications within the paper industry, without further valorisation and economic return. This is a low value choice, at the bottom of the biomass pyramid and, instead, EUCALIVA proposes to reach higher levels of value. It is important to valorise this unutilised material (lignin) from a high productive source.
EUCALIVA aims to create evidences to be an “Industrial success case” as a novel integral solution to fully valorise bio-resources at local level, to be then replicated at local/national level by other industrial partners interested in the technology and/or the products obtained within this project. Results will be focused on the development and set-up of a fully integrated, energetically efficient, scalable, innovative and flexible system based on the valorisation of the lignin from Eucalyptus tree.
EUCALIVA’s goal is to extract high-purity soluble lignin from the kraft pulping process (black liquors) and to transform the lignin through different lines. New applications will be produced: multifunctional conductive, piezo-resistive and piezoelectric materials, as well as applications based on non-woven fabrics and their carbonized derivatives (activated carbon). Meanwhile searching for a complete valorisation of the wastes is done, other polymers like polyurethane from the black liquors might be extracted, characterised and valorised as additives to upgrade the molecular weight of lignin to form the spinnable blends. These precursor products based on lignin will substitute current commercial precursors, such as polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and pitch, derived from petroleum and coal, respectively. The lignin-based carbon fibre can save 50 times more energy as compared to replacing oil with lignin in combustion. In the manufacturing of bio-based fibres, it is expected to reduce the energy consumption by 30% giving a market-ready solution.
WP1 has been devoted to the conversion of BLs (black liquors) from the Kraft process of Eucalyptus pulp into purified lignin. The BLs have been selected and characterized, after which the most suitable technologies for lignin extraction were selected on the base of the characterisation studies, analyses and tests. Then pure lignin was used in suitable blends, prepared in WP2, to be used as fibre precursors for obtaining fibre-based carbon-rich materials (non-wovens mainly). In WP2, the manufacturing of carbon fibres and derived fibre-based materials (fibrous mats and non-wovens) from high-purity lignin has been carried out.
An initial study was carried out by literature search on stretchable electronic markets and products. Biosensor srl used benchmarking to design a new stretchable electronic product, to set suitable production techniques and to decide the materials to be used. To improve the performance and decrease the fabrication cost of stretchable electronics, development of cost-effective stretchable materials with low sheet resistance, high flexibility and superior stretchability is imperative because the resistance and mechanical durability of stretchable electronics are critically related to the electrical and mechanical properties of the precursor materials. Outstanding mechanical flexibility and conductivity of the lignin-based materials are very important for development of stretchable electronics to compete with conventional petroleum-based precursor materials. To this end, feasibility analysis on ease of manufacturing of lignin lignin-based carbon inks and their usage for screen-printed stretchable electronics was performed. One of the objectives of this project was to create a flexible and stretchable ink that could be applied on surfaces as a conductive layer to generate wearable electrodes. Once developed, these devices will be applied to detect and analyze main components in the field of health and agrifood. Preliminary and stepwise rigid and flexible screen-printed electrodes were produced to demonstrate the possible manufacturability of stretchable electrodes.. Commercially available carbon inks are used to print the working and counter electrode and silver inks to print the reference electrode and long serpentine connections on thermos polyurethane substrate. In particular, small size screen-painted carbon electrodes showed good flexibility and stretchability in several test modes, including bending, twisting and stretching, which are critical requirements in stretchable and wearable electrodes. Identification of manufacturers/suppliers of Activated Carbon fabrics/textiles that can be used as benchmark (related to Objective 4.1 as described in the Grant Agreement) was done too.
Lastly, EUCALVIA team has developed an exploitation strategy that is complementary with all the partners’ research and/or business activities. The principal objectives related to the exploitation of results are as follows:
- Identifying relevant IP to be derived from project results in order to protect it.
- Distribution and /or ownership of foreground IP between partners
- Update of the patent analysis of new identified competing patents.
- Establishment of a best practice for the knowledge transfer from the RTOs and uptake by the SMEs (technology transfer).
- Identification and contact with potential STAKEHOLDERS interested in the project results: (i) Suppliers (hemp processors, and ingredient manufacturers), (ii) distributors (ingredient suppliers, retailers and other players in the supply chain), and (iii) potential users (consumers, large food companies, etc) 6. Establishment of a marketing strategy and preferred route to market.
The expected impact of the EUCALIVA project is focused on the building-block stage (spinnable lignin blends) since the final products (fibres & smart fabrics) are obtained by more conventional processes.
▪ Safety, quality and purity of the (new) products are in line with EU legislation and proven to meet end-market requirements in order to facilitate future market access and commercialisation.
▪ Reduction of industrial side-streams routed to disposal as waste.
▪ Demonstrated operational and energy costs savings as compared to existing processes and technologies.
▪ Successful introduction of ‘lignin – to – bio-product’ concepts at semi-commercial scale.
EUCALIVA provides an environmental answer to this problem, since it strongly contribute to decrease the greenhouse effect. EUCALIVA entails a great absorption of CO2, so the environmental benefits associated to this project cover a large variety of aspects (from biomass exploitation to bio-based end products) caused directly by the production of the raw material.