Sustainable plastic is the need of the hour. This type of plastic is made from natural materials. Biopolymer lignin, a byproduct of papermaking is a great material for the creation of sustainable plastic items. However, it is a bit difficult to uniformly produce it when made from petroleum-based plastics. A new study revealed the relation of the internal molecular structure of various lignin products related to the macroscopic properties for the first time. The study also puts light on the approach for perceiving lignin as a raw material to allow the production of lignin powered bioplastics with various properties according to the specific application.
What is lignin?
Lignin is a group of complex organic polymers, having the responsibility of plant stability. Eventually, their work is to lignify plants, that is, make them woody. While producing paper, lignin separated from cellulose. Viewed as a mere byproduct until now, this study proved the significance of lignin as the biggest source of natural aromatic compounds.
How can lignin create specifically designed sustainable plastic?
Generally, some first applications of hard lignin powered products are already present. However, it has been difficult to control them specifically. However, in this study, the researchers focused on the nanostructure of various fractions of commercial lignin and found that there are lignin fractions with domains, be it larger or smaller. Therefore, this can be of great advantage according to a specific application. Lignin can change in a hard or soft state, depending on the glass transition temperature, at which the biopolymer transforms in a viscous state.
According to the researchers, nearly two-thirds of the lignin generated during the paper production can be converted into polyesters. Therefore, it can serve as a starting material for creating plastics. This, in turn, has great potential for petroleum-based plastics replacement.