About The Project
The project was selected under the auspices of HORIZON 2020 (European programme for research and innovation) and aims to take significant commercialization steps based on the natural wood component lignin, creating industrial technologies to significantly reduce the share of fossil raw materials in phenol formaldehyde resin, which is widely used in various everyday products.
Replacing refined petroleum products, phenol, and formaldehyde in resins with industrially produced renewable lignin will achieve the objective set by VIOBOND partners, i.e. the use of bio-based, more environmentally friendly, and less toxic materials in the production of furniture, floor surfaces, thermal insulation, sandpaper and other everyday products.
The VIOBOND project will build a first-of-its-kind flagship plant in Latvia, at the Latvijas Finieris industrial hub in Riga, where lignin partially replaces fossil-based phenol and formaldehyde. The production capacity of environmentally friendly resin will reach 45,000 tons per year and renewable lignin will replace more than a third of the fossil materials used traditionally.
The VIOBOND consortium combines extensive interdisciplinary experience in a full value-chain from fractionating wood-based biorefinery lignin through to manufacturing several types of LPF resin for various purposes.
There are several commercial end-use products, where lignin replaces fossil-origin and hazardous phenol and formaldehyde in resin – conventional plywood panels, sandpaper, and thermal insulation. Moreover, special LPF resins to be used in consumer products such as plywood coating, white furniture plywood, sandpaper adhesive and insulation glass wool binder will be validated and produced at the flagship plant.
The process of signing the grant agreement was fully completed on May 18, 2021, formally marking the beginning of this major collaboration. The project started on September 1st, 2021 and will end on August 31st 2026. The VIOBOND project has nine partners from five different EU member states.
The total eligible costs of the VIOBOND project come to EUR 32 million, of which EUR 16 million comes from the EU (Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking) and the rest from the nine companies participating in the project. The programme’s support will focus on tackling climate change and investing in the sustainable development goals, contributing to the EU’s competitiveness and growth.
Why Are We Joining This Initiative?
The main objective of the project is to build new bio-based resin plant to Latvia, utilizing lignin from different biorefineries to partially replace phenol and formaldehyde in a variety of resin products. Lignin commercialization for higher value application is essential for commercial and sustainable biorefinery production and crucial to facilitating future investments for biorefineries.
Lignin-based resins are one of several promising commercialization routes. Lignin enables the partial replacement of toxic and fossil-based components in traditional phenol-formaldehyde resins. Lignin resin has high potential since it is one of the high maturity applications for biorefinery lignin and has been investigated by several resin and lignin producers, with some existing market entries.
Besides the resin value chain, there are also other lignin valorisation pathways to improve utilization of this valuable bioproduct. Lignin in composite application, replacement of bitumen in asphalt, advanced fuels and lignin carbon applications are currently among the most promising commercialization routes.
How Are We Going To Achieve This?
Replacing Toxic with Natural
Most plants, including trees of all species, contain 20-30% of lignin, a natural biopolymer that together with cellulose and hemicellulose forms the wood cell structure and provides close bonds between them. It is thanks to this durable structure that trees can grow in length, while wood acquires its excellent mechanical properties.
Nowadays, science and technologies have developed to the point that people can divide wood into its components. Phenol and formaldehyde, which are the compounds of commonly most used resins, are harmful to humans, whereas lignin is a natural, sustainable by-product.
Extracted from Wood
Non-modified lignin is extracted from wood by means of unique technologies. After this process lignin is already suitable for modification, which will be used for production of lignin-based resins for wide industrial applications. Examples include plywood, thermal insulation, sandpaper, floor and furniture production, etc.
Lignin resin can not only be used to produce plywood, but also in production of impregnated paper, which is used for plywood to reduce any unnecessary friction. Paper is impregnated with resin through the process, where paper is immersed in a bath of synthetic resin (the amount of the resin is dosed for each paper variety) before being put into a dryer. With the increase in temperature, the resin is partially condensed or dried out. After this process, paper is ready to be applied to plywood.
Historically, lignin was a by-product in the production of pulp, which, together with other by-products, was mainly used as a fuel for energy production. The idea of using lignin to replace phenol formaldehyde dates back over 50 years. In recent years, the development of novel wood processing technologies has made it possible to extract from wood chemically non-modified lignin highly suitable for further chemical modifications and functionalization.
At present, focused research into valorising lignin is continuously growing globally, making it possible to predict a wide array of applications for lignin in the near future.
The Environmental product declarations developed by Latvijas Finieris for birch plywood with and without lignin in the composition of the adhesive demonstrates that products for which lignin resin has been used in the production process are more environmentally friendly.
What Is Achieved?
The bilateral research work with Latvijas Finieris has been in process for about a year, with the objective of examining and improving the potential of hydrolysis lignin grade for different resins products. The VIOBOND project will be an important continuation of this systematic co-operation leading to lignin-based resin commercialization.
At present, focused research into valorising lignin is continuously growing globally, making it possible to predict a wide array of applications for lignin in the near future. The VIOBOND project’s managing partner Latvijas Finieris has already taken an important step in this direction. In cooperation with the chemical and mechanical wood processing company Stora Enso, an adhesive has been developed in which pulp production-derived sulfonated Kraft lignin has been used as a partial substitute for the traditionally used fossil-based phenol, and birch plywood products RIGA ECOlogical are available on the market.
The challenge that needs to be overcome is to persuade customers that lignin is a sustainable, renewable alternative and is not inferior to traditional raw materials.