Distillers dried grains with solubles may be an established animal feed, but Laurel Biocomposite LLC in Nebraska has found that DDGS are a viable feedstock for creating its trademarked biobased resin enhancer, LignoMAXX. Using lignin-conversion technology patented in New Zealand, Laurel Biocomposite’s LignoMAXX is described as a resin enhancer, as opposed to a resin filler in traditional thermoplastic or thermoset applications. In bulk molding trial runs where LignoMAXX had a 25 percent inclusion rate, replacing a portion of calcium carbonate and petroleum-derived resins in some thermoset applications, the end product was 11 percent lighter and 11 percent stronger, according to president Tim Bearnes.
“The bulk density of our product is lighter than some of the materials that are being used today,” Bearnes says. “For example, calcium carbonate has a bulk density of three, and LignoMAX has a bulk density of one.”
Although the majority of work involves DDGS, the company intends to use nonfood-based agricultural waste like corn stover and wood wastes such as wood chips when economically feasible, he says. “We started with DDGS because of handling and availability all year round for that material.”
A site has been identified in Laurel, Neb., for the company’s first LignoMAXX production facility. Once built, it would require about 40 million tons of DDGS annually to produce 34 to 36 million pounds of LignoMaxx yearly, Bearnes says. Prime customers for its LignoMAXX would be plastic or composite decking and plastic pallet manufacturers.