Researchers at the KU Leuven Centre for Chemistry and Catalysis have found a way to make use out of a paper industry waste product.
The scientists have found a way to turn lignin from the paper making process into new chemicals that can be used in paint, insulation foam and several other products.
Lignin is a substance in the cell walls of plants that strengthens its structure. But when wood is processed into paper pulp, it is produced as a waste product and is typically burned for disposal.
Professor Bert Sels from KU Leuven said: “Our method involves feeling wood into a small chemical reactor and adding a catalyst – to set off the chemical reaction – as well as a solvent.
“With the right temperature and pressure, we can separate the lignin from the pulp and disassemble it into small components. The result is a lignin oil that is easier to convert into chemical building blocks.
“These building blocks, in turn, can be used in plastic, insulation foam, solvents, colourings and flavourings, medicines, ink, paint, and so on.”