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Application area Lignin

Lignosulfonates are chemically modified biopolymers that are produced during the production of cellulose with the use of sulfites. Both soft and hard woods from Germany’s forests are used as a raw material in the production of cellulose and lignin products.

The lignosulfonate from Sappi Biotech GmbH comes exclusively from FSC- or PEFC-certified forests and inspected sources. This guarantees sustainable support for our national forests.


These environmentally friendly products have been used in a wide range of applications for about 100 years now, and their popularity continues unabated. The proven nontoxic and environmentally sound properties of this group of products is the reason for their use in a diverse range of technical, feed and fertilizer applications.

The biopolymer basis of lignosulfonate is lignin, which is found in wood and other types of plants. It functions as a strengthening structural and lignification substance. Considered from a purely mechanical perspective, lignin can be viewed as a plant’s matrix, and cellulose, which has a fibrous structure, can be viewed as its armor. Similar structural principles that have been copied by humans can be found in technical products like reinforced concrete, laminates and sandwich products. Lignosulfonates are used here as well to improve matrix properties.

The lignin matrix of the plants is a high molecular, probably even monomolecular polymer structure that has to be broken open during the production of cellulose, i.e. the separation of cellulose and lignin. The separation of lignin and cellulose is also made possible here through the unilateral sulfonation of the lignin. The water-soluble lignosulfonate that is created by this can be separated from the (water-insoluble) cellulose through filtration.

The polymer lignin structure and the anionic character of the lignosulfonate are responsible for the double functionality of the lignosulfonate. They are both superior adhesives and dispersants that can be viewed broadly as anionic tensides.

Moreover, lignosulfonates can be used as a chelating agent in certain metallic cations, which is why it is used as a trace element fertilizer. They are also stable across a broad range of temperatures and pH levels. Many branches of industry use these properties for their processes and products. Ideally, lignosulfonates are environmentally compatible during manufacturing as well as in the recycling process – a significant plus on the ecological balance sheet.

Aside from the purely technical properties, use of lignosulfonates can also be evaluated according to the aspect of the sustainability of an end product, where necessary.