Plastic from wood? X-ray analysis points the way to lignin-based components made to measure

The biopolymer lignin is a by-product of papermaking and a promising raw material for manufacturing sustainable plastic materials. However, the quality of this naturally occurring product is not as uniform as that of petroleum-based plastics. An X-ray analysis carried out at DESY reveals for the first time how the internal molecular structure of different lignin products is related to the macroscopic properties of the respective materials. The study, which has been published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, provides an approach for a systematic understanding of lignin as a raw material to allow for production of lignin-based bioplastics with different properties, depending on the specific application.