Lignin is a unique material found in all trees and plants; it possesses many properties. In addition to being used for green carbon fibre, biofuels and as a binder in a variety of products, it also has properties such as UV and fire protection.
“What makes lignin unique is that the molecule has a variety of properties. For instance, it is partially water repellent and has properties like UV and fire protection. At the same time lignin is a renewable and biodegradable material”, says Fernando Alvarado, PhD Senior Project Manager at RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden.
Lignin for UV protection
Lignin has three properties that make it suitable as UV protection.
“It can absorb UV light, it is antioxidant and acts as a radical scavenger”, Alvarado explains.
This means that lignin can stop the vibrations created by the high energy of UV light, which can lead to destruction of materials and severe skin sunburns.
“I usually joke and say, "why not just apply lignin instead of using sunscreen", it has the same functions. That way we will protect ourselves from the sun, but at the same time get the tanned colour that we crave. You see, lignin in its purest form is brown.”.
Lignin is the binder that gives plants their strength and a by-product in the production of paper and pulp, just wating to be used in new ways to create a higher value on the market.
Today there is no sunscreen that contains lignin, but the material clearly has the right properties and can be used to create many new natural products in the future. And for those who want to contribute to the development in this area there is plenty of research available.
“Radical chemistry has been examined in hundreds of studies”, Alvarado confirms.
Lignin as fire protection
Lignin also has the properties to work as flame and fire protection. For example, successful tests have been made on wire insulation at construction sites.
“Due to the structure of the lignin, in the event of fire, carbon particles are formed, which covers the surface and prevent the oxygen from entering the material further. An oxygen deficiency is created, and the fire goes out”, explains Fernando Alvarado.
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