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Germany: Alternative to Fossil Fuels

Researchers Develop Binder for Lignin-Based Paints

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Lignin is a real alternative to fossil resources in the manufacture of primers and adhesives.
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Lignin is a real alternative to fossil resources in the manufacture of primers and adhesives. (Source: Fraunhofer Ifam)

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Bremen have developed a paint primer on the basis of lignin, which, for example, can be obtained from plant residues. It is free of petrochemical raw materials and therefore has a significantly improved CO2 balance.

Bremen/Germany — Fossil resources are limited in supply. Nevertheless, the production of many products depends on these finite — often environmentally harmful — resources. Accordingly, there is great demand for raw materials that not only will be a substitute for petrochemical substances, but also have a better environmental compatibility and CO2 balance. Of particular interest are raw materials that are not in competition with the production of foodstuffs or biofuels and, at the same time, are available in large quantities.

One example is lignin, which — next to cellulose — is the most abundant natural product. Among other things, lignin is a by-product of paper production. Also large quantities of lignin are produced as a waste product in the production of bioethanol. For the Fraunhofer scientists, it therefore seemed reasonable to create an alternative to petrochemicals by processing lignin, which is renewable, environmentally friendly and available almost without any limit.

Bio-Binder for Primer Formulation

In the development of alternatives to petrochemical substances, lignin has often attracted the attention of scientists. Due to its challenging properties, though, such efforts with the mechanical wood pulp have so far not prevailed. For example, the exact chemical composition of the lignin mass depends on whether it comes from paper production and is mixed with other substances or whether it is a by-product of biofuel. Accordingly, the production of a substance that always has a similar reaction is highly complex.

Unlike previous approaches that were based on producing lignin monomeric starting materials, which always have the same properties, Fraunhofer Ifam took a different approach by standardizing and modifying the whole substance. According to the scientists, this results in raw material that is always the same within certain limits.

The experts transformed the standardized mixture further and used it as raw material for binders for primer formulations. The result is a primer that has key properties such as corrosion protection, adhesion or applicability comparable to primers based on petrochemicals.

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Especially in times when the call of both manufacturers and end customers for sustainable products is becoming louder, such bio-based solutions are particularly interesting. In the automotive industry, for example, the carbon footprint is an important selling point. Through the use of bio-based primers and paints, this can be significantly improved. And since the lignin-based primer of the Fraunhofer Ifam has comparable properties to those of conventional primers, no compromise would have to be made in terms of quality.

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