Lignum from Korea joins the ExpandFibre Ecosystem

Lignum from Korea joins the ExpandFibre Ecosystem

Members 08.11.2022

As the ExpandFibre Ecosystems gains more members from outside Europe, we are happy to introduce and welcome Lignum to the ExpandFibre Ecosystem. Lignum is a start-up company established in 2017, developing technology to produce bioplastic materials for the automotive industry, for instance. We had the pleasure of talking to Dr. Oh-Jin Park, who works as a CTO and is in charge of corporate development at Lignum. He tells us about their development activities and expanding their network to Europe to learn more about developing biomaterials from the forestry side streams.

Biofillers for automotive industry and more

Oh-Jin Park explainsthat the focus of their lean company with less than ten employees is to use lignin to provide functional and sustainable raw materials for the automotive industry in particular. Lignum’s proprietary process enables biobased renewable functional fillers to be produced at a competitive price. Lignum’s SSEIF® Biofiller is sulfur-free and odor free.

Lignum has been collaborating with large global automotive industries. Global manufacturers of interior car parts are Lignum’s partners who can test Lignum’s SSEIF® Biofiller in polypropylene compounds. Lignum has been supplying SSEIF® Biofiller in a commercial SUV model (Ssangyong Motor’s Tivoli model since 2019). 5% replacement of talc resulted in 6-7% reduction in weight of the car interior parts. Lignum has tested and implemented solutions with partners using biomaterials for interior parts and tailgates. Their main product is biofiller based on lignocellulosic raw material, which is mixed with polymers and biomaterials with an aim to replace heavy inorganic fillers and talc in polypropylene compounds in their product applications. SSEIF® Biofiller has excellent compatibility and dispersibility with petroleum-derived hydrophobic polymers and biopolymers such as PLA,  PBAT and PHAs.

At the moment, Lignum is constructing a demo plant which aims to handle 500 tonnes of dry biomass annually. Therefore, Lignum is interested in learning more about using lignin-based biofillers in fossil-based polypropylene or recycled polypropylene. They would like to start to collaborate with Finland and other European countries, which are more developed in making use of the forestry side streams for obtaining lignin. Last year, Lignum talked with Metsä Spring about innovative solutions for forest products. This year, Lignum has been in dialogues with Fortum, who recommended Lignum to join the ExpandFibre Ecosystem.

Characteristics in collaborating with European and North American companies

Oh-Jin Park has found out that collaborating with European and North American companies is somewhat easier. “Europe and North America are more agile and more open for collaboration. I appreciate the open innovation atmosphere in the European companies who are contacting us for shared development activities to create more sustainable product applications. In South Korea, the culture is also slowly changing towards more open collaboration.”

Lignum has been performing tests on two continents,  one in North America and the other in Europe, already for components to be used in the cars’ interior parts. The results have been promising for their material, proving that the light weight of their product is a big asset. Using Lignum’s biobased SSEIF® Biofiler, a total reduction of 6-7% in weight meeting the required mechanical properties can be reached with existing injection molding equipment without any modification. This is a remarkable weight reduction in car parts, making a direct impact on the environmental footprint of the manufactured cars.

As for other application areas for Lignum, Oh-Jin Park mentions 3D-printed filaments with PLA as base matrix polymer and SSEIF® Biofiller from Lignum. Lignum is also developing a formula for agriculture and electrical cables and is looking into upcycling the large waste wooden drums which are used to wind cables around them. There are several partners testing their filler in rubbers, elastomers, and thermosets. All in all, there are a lot of collaboration activities going on at the moment.

Oh-Jin Park concludes: “From our perspective, ExpandFibre might be far from Asia, but we appreciate the openness to collaboration. We are eager to learn about the good things that can be obtained from the forest in a sustainable way. For us, it is important to learn more to be able to save our forest for our children and future generations.”

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