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Odourless lignin can herald a new chapter for the Swedish economy, Source: LignoCity

Test facility for odourless lignin in Sweden: from waste to treasure

Test facility for odourless lignin in Sweden: from waste to treasure

LignoCity wants to put the paper-producing municipality of Kristinehamn on the global business map

The Swedish forest bio-economy aims to expand beyond the production of timber and paper thanks to scientific research. For that purpose, the LignoCity test and development facility was founded two years ago with the help of the Swedish Research Institute (RISE) as a way to attract startups that want to work with lignin, a by-product of paper production.

Lignin is the substance that binds the cells in plants and is thus a natural material, however, until now it just gets burned as fuel into the atmosphere. However, it has great potential for application in several different product areas, but its smell has so far been a challenge. Hopefully this will soon change thanks to an investment project from RISE that will be opening a unique test facility to produce odour-free lignin.

Lignin might replace plastics in the future

Lignin is nature’s own adhesive. It is found in the cell walls of all plants and binds the fibers together and provides strength. The more lignin, the stronger the plant. Trees consist of 20-30 percent lignin. This is what allows them to grow up to be, in some cases, over a hundred meters high.

The substance can be used, for example, in the replacement of plastic, fuel, asphalt, batteries, carbon fiber, in building and construction materials and as a fire and UV protection.

It is an underutilized raw material, but the use of it is increasing. Projects are ongoing and one example is to replace the binder in asphalt from bitumen to lignin, trials are being made in both smaller and larger scale.

Thanks to lignin, the use of oil and coal may decrease in the future and contribute to a lower carbon footprint. It also allows for more complete utilization of the trees and plant mass.

Lignin is also a business opportunity

LignoCity is located near the Nordic Paper pulp production facility in Kristinehamn and thus can rely on constant supply of the raw material lignin, which can be made available for the use of entrepreneuring startups.

This will be a completely unique test facility for the production of odorless sulphate lignin. We believe that this facility will open up more new markets for lignin products where it has previously been chosen not to proceed with product development due to the odour, enabling it for use in consumer products and indoor applications,” explained Anders Arkell, researcher at RISE and project manager for the investment project.

One company that is positive about this investment is Valmet, which owns intangible patents linked to the process.

Our technology for reducing odor from lignin has previously been verified on a lab and pilot scale and the natural step is now to upgrade to a demo scale. We are incredibly happy about this opportunity to do this together with RISE and see many benefits of it being done in Bäckhammar in connection with LignoCity,” stated Hanna Karlsson, Process Manager for ash treatment and LignoBoost at Valmet.

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