Dr. Yujie Ma, R&D scientist, and Ms. Petra Berends, Product technologist, both member of the Bio-based platform within Smit & zoon’s research department, lead the research on using lignin in retanning agents. The patent describes the smart utilization of industrial lignin to mix with phenol in the production of otherwise 100% petro-based polyphenolic retanning chemicals. Part of the phenol in the concerning products is replaced by lignin during the chemical conversion process.
Positive first trials
Trials with lignin-based products are currently taking place. Dr. Ma is pleased with the first results: “First trials show a great outcome on leather. The lignin-based products bring fullness and softness and result in an equal and intense dye.”
Smit & zoon’s Bio-based platform aims to increase the bio-based content and the degree of biodegradability in the company’s leather chemical portfolio. This is in line with Smit & zoon’s CSR ambition to play a catalyzing role in making the leather value chain largely sustainable by 2025.
A natural polymer
Lignin is a natural cross-linked polyphenol derived from biomass that is formed in the cell walls of wood or agricultural crops and plants providing structural strength. Lignin constitutes about 20-35% of the mass of every tree or plant and is the most abundant natural aromatic resource. As a by-product from the pulp and paper industry, lignin is currently mainly burned to generate energy.
About Smit & zoon
Headquartered in Weesp, The Netherlands, Smit & zoon is a leading global supplier of wet-end and finishing leather chemicals for tanneries. Smit & zoon develops and produces leather chemicals used in the manufacturing of leather for well-known brands of shoes, cars, furniture, clothes and bags. With its focus on innovation and sustainability and a long-term focus, Smit & zoon supports its customers in meeting their current and future needs.