We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Industrial Uses of Lignin?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Lignin is an essential organic binding element in the cell structures and fibers of wood and plants such as grasses. There are two classes of lignin — namely sulfur-bearing and sulfur-free types — which collectively represent the second most abundant source of renewable carbon in the world. As of 2011, only sulfur-bearing lignin is commercially utilized, however, with the vast majority being discarded as waste. Common industrial uses of lignin include emulsion and dispersant agents, polymer binders, and food additives. It is also used for agricultural soil rehabilitation, as a anti-corrosion agent, and as a tanning agent.

The cells, vessels, and fibers of wood and grasses are bound together by an organic substance known as lignin. This essential substance is unique in that its chemical composition is never exactly the same from one plant to the other, with the only predictable characteristic being a phenyl-propene-based dendritic network polymer. The substance is also noteworthy for the fact that it, after cellulose, represents the second richest renewable carbon source on Earth. Two basic classes exist — sulfur-bearing and sulfur-free lignin — with the sulfur-bearing variant being the only one of any commercial interest as of 2011. In fact, very little of the substance is used, with the majority of the 40 to 50 million tons (36.3 – 45.4 million tonnes) produced annually being destined for the non-commercial waste heap.

The two sulfur-bearing lignin varieties commonly utilized are lignosulphonates and Kraft lignins, with an approximate collective global production of 600,000 tons (544,310 tonnes) per annum. One of the desirable characteristics of these substances are their hydrophilic and hydrophobic qualities, which see the substances used as multi-polarity dispersant and emulsifying agents. Being a naturally-branched and cross-linked network polymer, it is also regularly used as a binding agent in a range of materials, such as polyurethane, polyester, and several grades of particle and resin boards. Other industrial uses of the substance as a material binder include the production of composites, activated carbons, and several epoxies.

The agricultural sector also utilizes lignin as a soil rehabilitation aid as well as a component in slow release fertilizers. Other agricultural uses include components in insecticides, artificial humus, and as a granulation and pelletizing aid. The food industry is also a consumer of lignin as a component in a variety of anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial food additives. In other industries, the substance is frequently used as a tanning agent, foam stabilizer, and a component in several pharmaceutical anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory preparations.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.