High Strength Lignin Polymer Fiber

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The Technology

Researchers at the University of Tennessee have discovered a method to produce lignin-based polymer fibers with high strength. Lignin manufactured by this novel method has improved the quality and the mechanical properties of lignin-based fibers to such a great extent that the inventors believe it can displace polypropylene in geotechnical textile, construction and agricultural uses. Lignin is biodegradable and is often generated as waste during biofuels production, paper manufacturing, and chemical pulping processes, making it a low cost source of high quality material.

Lignin-based polymer fiber exhibits typical tensile strength of around 400 GPa with moduli in excess of 5 GPa; both are values found in higher-end commercial polypropylene fibers. The inventors have produced commercial grade material with diameters as low as 8┬Ám, strengths as high as 800 MPa, and moduli in excess of 30 GPa. In fact, lignin polymer fiber produced by this methodology exhibits a wide range of textile strengths from weak natural fiber to strong polypropylene and medium polyesters, with moduli greater than synthetic fiber of 4GPa, but maintain congruent extensibilities to those of natural fibers. In addition to these excellent properties, the lignin polymer fiber is biodegradable; the rate of which is tunable.

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