Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SmartLi (Smart Technologies for the Conversion of Industrial Lignins into Sustainable Materials)
Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30
New technologies for depolymerisation of lignin and separation of depolymerisation products have been developed. Base catalyzed depolymerization of both Kraft lignin and lignosulphonates has been systematically studied. Cross-flow membrane filtration has been studied as a means to fractionate BCD fragments in a non-thermal, hence gentle and energy-efficient manner. It was shown that higher and lower molecular weight BCD derivatives can be separated directly from the alkaline reactor water and thereby debottlenecking the current downstream separation process. . The BCD process was successfully scaled-up using a two-stage membrane process at semi-pilot scale and two selected pH-stable NF modules.
The usability of lignins and their fractions has been assessed in four areas of industrial applications: 1) Thermoplastic compounds; 2) Phenolic resins; 3) Polyurethane foams and 4) Epoxy composites and coatings. The experimental activities allowed to demonstrate the antioxidative properties of lignin and lignin fractions i and their processability on a pre-industrial scale in several thermoplastic polymers. The results show that lignin can replace high-cost antioxidants in composites and provided even better performance compared to commercial ones against heat and light. The lignin use as reinforcing blend partner of composites was studied under industrial conditions to confirm the improved mechanical properties of lignin fractions obtained by solvent fractionation. . Modified kraft lignin was successfully used in both rigid and flexible PU foams.Use of kraft lignin and its fraction in long pot-life and 2K epoxy formulations for applications in composites, adhesives and coatings was carried out successfully.
An integral part of the work was the assessment of technologies and products, developed in terms of ecological, economic and social aspects. The early implementation of sustainability assessment and respective indicators is a prerequisite to foster the effectiveness of innovation processes towards an efficient resource use right from the beginning. In order to systematically consider the environmental aspects a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and techno-economic analyses were carried out for the newly developed lignin based products as well as the new technologies. It was concluded that a streamlined LCA in line with R&D advancements can support the entire project by providing important information on potential environmental impacts and provide different scenarios in order to expand the idea of future development.The issue of an early assessment of potential market barriers and incentives of currently developed products is often requested, but seldom done. This might be attributed to the difficulties occurring due to a lack of available information and/or experts as well as specific methods.The implementation of economic and ecological assessment already during an early research stage may be the key to successfully develop sustainable processes and produc