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26th July 2018, Fort Mill, SC

Prisma and Domtar partner for biocomposites

Montreal-headquartered paper and absorbent hygiene products company Domtar has acquired a majority interest in Prisma Renewable Composites, which is developing advanced materials from lignin and other natural resources.

A spin-off of TennEra operating between academia and industry, and with license agreements with both Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Prisma’s technology includes lignin-derived thermoplastic co-polymers, polymer blend composites, lignin-acrylonitrile polymer blends, and its patented lignin fractionation process – evolUTIATM, a process that creates very pure lignin and cellulose streams.

Lignin, the natural glue that holds wood fibres together, is a byproduct of the kraft pulping process. © Prisma Renewable Composites

Domtar’s biomaterials team and research partners have already been focusing time and resources on lignin development, and specifically, developing lignin-based materials that could eventually serve as sustainable and biodegradable alternatives to petroleum and other fossil fuel-based products. Its investment in Prisma represents the next step in the path towards the commercialisation lignin-based engineered plastic compounds, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and other high-value applications.

“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to partner with an industry-leading renewable composite company,” says Mark DeAndrea, Domtar’s vice president of biomaterials. “This investment leverages Prisma’s scientific research capabilities and unique product development strategy with Domtar’s commercialisation and lignin production expertise.”

Lignin, the natural glue that holds wood fibres together, is a byproduct of the kraft pulping process. Traditionally, it has been burned to provide energy to a pulp and paper mill. However, it also has the potential for use in a wide range of industrial applications as a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum and other fossil fuels.

Lignin development and the use of lignin as a biomaterial has gained momentum in the past few years, beginning with Domtar’s installation of a commercial-scale lignin separation plant in Plymouth, North Carolina, in 2013. Today, the company uses state-of-the-art extruding equipment to deliver commercial-grade lignin in dried, compounded and modified lignin granules/pellets, as well as lignin-polymer blends.

Domtar also recently installed a demonstration plant at a mill in Ontario to showcase lignin pellets as a potential bioalternative to plastic, chemicals and other industrial products. This project has garnered interest from several industries, as well as support from provincial and federal governments, specifically through Natural Resources Canada’s Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program.

Domtar says it is learning more in the lab every day, and hopes to expand its research to understand the full potential, capabilities and commercial opportunities for lignin-based graphene and lignin-based carbon fibres.

“Innovation is core to Domtar Biomaterials’ growth strategy,” DeAndrea says. “Domtar Biomaterials is a bridge between science and commercialization, and we’re very excited by the numerous opportunities we see in lignin.”

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