High Strength Lignin Based Plastics (20140254, Dr. Simo Sarkanen)

Technology No. 20140254
IP Status: Issued US Patent; Application #: 15/125,380

High Lignin Plastics with Impressive Tensile Strength

A new generation of lignin plastics feature very high lignin content and exhibit comparable—or even superior—properties compared to conventional PMMA and polystyrene. These innovative polymeric materials contain at least 80% lignin and are predominantly comprised of methylated or non-methylated ligninsulfonate. These plastics show promising tensile strength, and plasticizers or other polymers can further enhance their mechanical properties. 

Lignin Content More Than Doubled

Current lignin-based plastics lack satisfactory mechanical properties and previous processes have limited the amount of lignin that can be incorporated, as they exhibit significant degradation with more than 35-40% lignin content. The high-lignin plastics and polymeric materials show promising tensile strengths with formulations using 85-100% lignin content. Not only are these plastics stronger than current lignin-based plastics, but they add value to the bio-refining and pulp industries that produce lignin as a byproduct and most often burn it for its fuel value. This technology offers a route to realizing significant commercial value from lignin in the form of a new renewable plastic.


  • Eco-friendly alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics
  • Comparable or even superior to conventional polystyrene and poly(methyl methacrylate) PMMA
  • Increased lignin content and higher durability than most lignin-based plastics
  • Tensile strength >50 MPa
  • Fully biodegradable
  • Cost-reduction of biofuel production by commercializing lignin side product


  • All applications in which plastics are used (polystyrene replacement in engineered plastic, non-petroleum or bioplastics, BPA-free plastics)
  • Could replace plastic film or netting residues in agricultural or soil erosion control applications
  • Non-packaging applications (e.g., automotive, furniture, appliance and other durable

Phase of Development

Proof of concept demonstrating high-strength plastics with high ligninsulfonate and methylated ligninsulfonate content. Plastic samples made and mechanical properties tested in the laboratory.

Simo Sarkanen, PhD
Professor, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering
External Link (bbe.umn.edu)

DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b01700
ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2016, 4 (10), pp 5223–5229; Publication Date (Web): September 7, 2016
DOI: 10.1039/C5GC90055G
Green Chemistry, 2015, 17, 4860-4861
DOI: 10.1021/ma021124u
ACS Macromolecules, 2002, 35 (26), pp 9707–9715; Publication Date (Web): November 21, 2002
DOI: 10.1021/ma047546g
ACS Macromolecules, 2005, 38 (6), pp 2296–2306; Publication Date (Web): February 9, 2005

  • swap_vertical_circlelibrary_booksReferences (0)
  • swap_vertical_circlecloud_downloadDownloads (0)
    Files marked with an asterix (*) can only be downloaded by users that have the appropriate product license. The license must be active and you must be logged into your account.
Questions about this technology?