Oak Ridge researchers crack 3D printing lignin challenge


In Tennessee, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a 3D printing material that makes use of waste lignin.

The breakthrough came by using melt-stable hardwood lignin together with low-melting nylon and carbon fiber. Combining the lignin with nylon overcomes lignin’s susceptibility to charring, increased stiffness at room temperature, and reduced melt viscosity.

The composite is up to 50% lignin by weight, higher than previously achieved. Finding new uses for lignin—the material that provides structure to the plant cell wall but is difficult to break down—can improve the economics of the entire biorefining process.

“ORNL’s world-class capabilities in materials characterization and synthesis are essential to the challenge of transforming byproducts like lignin into coproducts, generating potential new revenue streams for industry and creating novel renewable composites for advanced manufacturing,” says Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences.