As a natural adhesive, lignin has enormous potential in a wide range of applications. Its full industrial potential has yet to be exploited so far, however. LignoCOST, a large European network coordinated by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, aims to change that. The objective is to develop a pan-European network which covers the entire value chain, from raw materials to cost-effective and sustainable end products.
“Lignin is a fascinating material,” says Richard Gosselink, scientist at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research and coordinator of LignoCOST. “It's cheap, because it is abundant in nature: in fact, lignin is the substance that gives firmness to trees, grasses and straw. It is released during pulp and paper production, and is currently mainly used as fuel. That’s a shame as it could be of much greater value to industry. For instance, lignin has interesting aromatic and polymer properties, as well as a UV-stabilising effect and an antimicrobial effect.”
According to Gosselink, the upscaling of existing applications and development of new ones can lead to additional income for companies in a range of industries: “Lignin is, for instance, already successfully used in products such as cement, emulsion asphalt, composites and adhesives for fibreboards. But there are many more options, such as asphalt, carbon fibres and building materials. The EU network LignoCOST should lay a solid foundation for this.”
LignoCOST is supported by the EU COST programme and focuses primarily on creating and sharing knowledge. “This information should give a considerable boost to practical deployments of lignin that add value in the framework of industrial applications.”
More than 200 partners
LignoCOST (CA17128) consists of five work programmes, each focused on distinct objectives and results. More than 200 partners from 38 countries are part of the ambitious framework. The LignoCOST network organises a large number of networking events, workshops and training courses. It also supports young scientists looking to conduct scientific research into lignin. LignoCOST will run until October 2022.