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LignoCity – an open testbed offering considerable opportunities

Bäckhammar in the county of Värmland is home to LignoCity, RISE’s testbed for the development of various value chains from sulphate lignin. LignoCity is the only testbed that is able to produce sulphate lignin in the quantities required for scaling up, and has consequently become an important resource for companies that are developing or refining lignin for the production of new, climate-friendly fuels, chemicals and materials.

LignoCity is strategically located, with Nordic Paper’s pulp & paper mill as its closest neighbour. This is where the black liquor containing sulphate lignin comes from. LignoCity is able to produce several thousand tonnes of sulphate lignin annually, an important prerequisite for being able to offer large-scale testing and evaluations of lignin-based solutions. 

In order to increase the outside world’s knowledge of lignin-based products, and at the same time promote their development, RISE, in collaboration with representatives from industry, academia, the Paper Province cluster and Region Värmland, has implemented the project “LignoCity 2.0 - Low-carbon economy through the development of LignoCity”. One aspect of the project involved the creation of a working method and support to promote the development of SMEs that want to develop their lignin concepts into a business.

– “In LignoCity 2.0, small companies that have an concept or technology for lignin processing are provided with access to both the testbed and the knowledge, skills and resources that we and our network possess,” says Maria Ölmhult, project manager at RISE, continuing:

“Our knowledge and expertise in the field of lignin is world-leading in some respects, and working with RISE means that the companies have also gained access to all the cutting-edge expertise we offer in other areas. Through LignoCity 2.0, we and our partners have had the resources to support companies from initial concept through to prototype, production, business plan and establishment. Scaling up has been an important part of the project, of course,” says Maria Ölmhult.

We want to encourage more idea carriers to come to us in Bäckhammar to develop their ideas

Digitalisation will increase accessibility

LignInnovation has been launched in 2021, a project that will make LignoCity even more accessible, principally through increased digitalisation. The aim is also to increase the reach of the testbed and to seek out collaborations with innovators beyond Sweden’s borders.

– “We want to encourage more idea carriers to come to us in Bäckhammar to develop their ideas, build a pilot plant and, in the long run, establish and develop their business in Sweden. Here, we can offer an industrial floor and a lab environment to those who need the testbed and the unique expertise possessed by our researchers, operators and business partners,” explains Maria Ölmhult.

Lignin in asphalt

But that’s not all. While new ideas are taking shape on the floor, others have made it all the way to full-scale testing. In 2021, a collaborative project was launched between NCC and RISE, with the aim of testing whether sulphate lignin can replace fossil raw materials in asphalt. The test is based on replacing some of the bitumen used in asphalt with varying amounts of sulphate lignin. Since then, five mixtures containing different volumes of sulphate lignin have been laid on public roads by NCC. As road surfaces are intended to withstand wear for a long time, the project is planned to continue for six years. In this way, it is possible to evaluate the function and durability of the asphalt over time, while at the same time monitoring the asphalt’s entire life cycle, from construction and maintenance requirements to recycling.

– “For us, this type of project is interesting for a number of reasons. For example, the possibility of replacing a fossil material with a domestic and completely bio-based product from the forest, and the positive environmental impact this entails. At the same time, it also helps to spread the impression and message that sulphate lignin is a material with untapped possibilities, and that we at RISE have the potential to perform full-scale testing,” says Maria Ölmhult.

On its website, LignoCity gathers up-to-date information about sulphate lignin and the testbed’s various offers. When the pandemic put a stop to study visits and conferences, webinars and filmed interviews were arranged, which are also published on the website.


Lignin is a polymer and one of the main components of wood. Lignin binds the cellulose fibres in the wood, as well as strengthening the tree trunk. In order to release the cellulose fibres in the wood, the binding agent (the lignin) between the fibres needs to be dissolved. When this is done using the sulphate process, the dissolved lignin is called sulphate lignin.

The dissolved sulphate lignin has traditionally been incinerated and used as an energy source in the pulp mill, as well as in cases where the pulp mill is integrated with a subsequent paper mill. However, the sulphate lignin has the potential to be used for much more than just as an internal biofuel, including in adhesives, various plastics, surface treatments, dispersants and even carbon fibre and electrode materials in batteries. 

Robert Gustavsson

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Robert Gustavsson


+46 10 228 45 04

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