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Sources: VTT Technical Research Centre Ltd., Finland; CP staff

A research and technology specialist serving Europe’s forest-laden Nordic countries cites a technique to convert lignin, a wood fiber binder and pulp mill byproduct, to a plasticizing agent competitive with synthetic and lignosulphonate-based concrete admixtures.

VTT’s LigniOx technology converts lignin to a water-soluble agent through molecular oxygen, and is described in Senior Scientist Anna Kalliola’s 2015 doctoral thesis. In fresh concrete, VTT contends, LigniOx-derived solution outperforms commercial lignosulphonate-based plasticizer and provides a promising alternative to synthetic superplasticizers. It enables use of small volumes of water in a concrete mix design, producing a highly workable paste that hardens into a strong final product.

The oxidizing technology can be used to process different kinds of lignins; only the conditions need be tailored for each type. VTT's further development projects are focused on making the LigniOx solution competitive against synthetic products and exploring its commercial potential. The firm cites a global market for lignin-based plasticizers upward of 19 million tons annually, developing countries’ growth fueling higher demand.

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