SBIR Phase II: Trans-esterified Lignin Thermoplastic

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$741K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Cyclewood Solutions, Inc
700 W Research Ctr Blvd Ste 1420
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project addresses the need for affordable compostable plastics to replace petroleum-based plastics. Plastic bags are an environmental eyesore that pollute waterways and kill wildlife. Local governments are now passing laws to ban the use of plastic bags in efforts to hinder the spread of pollution. The U.S. plastic bag market was over $10.6 billion in 2013. While society and government have placed more emphasis on diverting compostable waste (25% to 40% of garbage) from landfills, the average American throws away 1,500 pounds of garbage every year. Lignin output is expected to increase in the ensuing years due to an increase in lignin extraction plants coming on-line. These modified lignin resins range in lignin concentration depending on the application. Utilizing compostable lignin resins eliminates plastic waste and makes composting easier. Using compostable bags and liners removes the risk of plastic contamination. The objectives for this project include the determination of ideal production conditions for modified lignins and the creation of formulations for a variety of applications. The commercialization of these modified lignins will help to alleviate the plastic waste problems that are impacting municipalities across the country. The objectives of this research are to optimize production of chemically modified lignin and thermoplastics, develop quality control methods for raw lignin and modified lignin, and create more proprietary formulations to expand lignin applications. Modified lignins were successfully produced in large scale during the Phase I project. Phase II will continue to improve and expand the modified lignin production by optimizing for physical properties and cost. The variables selected for this optimization include reaction time, reagent quantity, and reaction temperature. Developing a continuous process is also an objective for this effort. Compounding of modified lignin with other thermoplastics will also be optimized for physical properties and cost. The variables for this portion include screw design, screw speed, and temperature. Quality control methods for raw lignin and modified lignin will be developed using existing analytical methods tailored to the specifics of raw lignin and modified lignin. In addition, formulations will be expanded to tailor blends to specific applications. Strength, elongation, modulus, and cost are a few of the factors that determine what formulation should be used for a particular application. The anticipated results of this Phase II project are to optimize the production process and produce consistent modified lignin.