Reasearch Awards nomination

Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Biotechnology for Biofuels and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research

Effect of replacing polyol by organosolv and kraft lignin on the property and structure of rigid polyurethane foam

Xuejun Pan1* and Jack N Saddler2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 460 Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706, USA

2 Department of Wood Science, University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-6-12

Published: 28 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Lignin is one of the three major components in plant cell walls, and it can be isolated (dissolved) from the cell wall in pretreatment or chemical pulping. However, there is a lack of high-value applications for lignin, and the commonest proposal for lignin is power and steam generation through combustion. Organosolv ethanol process is one of the effective pretreatment methods for woody biomass for cellulosic ethanol production, and kraft process is a dominant chemical pulping method in paper industry. In the present research, the lignins from organosolv pretreatment and kraft pulping were evaluated to replace polyol for producing rigid polyurethane foams (RPFs).

Results

Petroleum-based polyol was replaced with hardwood ethanol organosolv lignin (HEL) or hardwood kraft lignin (HKL) from 25% to 70% (molar percentage) in preparing rigid polyurethane foam. The prepared foams contained 12-36% (w/w) HEL or 9-28% (w/w) HKL. The density, compressive strength, and cellular structure of the prepared foams were investigated and compared. Chain extenders were used to improve the properties of the RPFs.

Conclusions

It was found that lignin was chemically crosslinked not just physically trapped in the rigid polyurethane foams. The lignin-containing foams had comparable structure and strength up to 25-30% (w/w) HEL or 19-23% (w/w) HKL addition. The results indicated that HEL performed much better in RPFs and could replace more polyol at the same strength than HKL because the former had a better miscibility with the polyol than the latter. Chain extender such as butanediol could improve the strength of lignin-containing RPFs.

Keywords:
Kraft lignin; Lignin utilization; Organosolv lignin; Polyurethane; Rigid foam