Adam Slabon

Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2021

Engineering and Technology

Dr Adam Slabon 
Stockholm University

Using lignin to create sustainable new materials

Lignin is a by-product of the process of turning wood into paper and is often combusted to produce heat, despite being a natural material with interesting chemical properties. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Adam Slabon is developing methods for utilizing lignin, transforming it into functional materials or biofuel. 

Lignin functions as a type of binder in plants and trees which, along with cellulose fibers, gives them their strength. However, when wood is made into paper, for example, the lignin is a hindrance and must be removed from the paper pulp. It becomes a by-product, usually combusted to generate heat.  

However, from a chemical perspective, burning lignin is a waste of resources. Lignin, in itself sustainable, is built from small chemical entities that have desirable properties. Adam Slabon, Dr in inorganic chemistry at Stockholm University, is now developing methods to facilitate large-scale recycling of lignin. 

An important first step is to break down the enormous lignin molecules into smaller units, which has been done using a method that requires fossil fuels. Instead, Adam Slabon is developing an electrochemical method that is more environmentally friendly and better preserves important parts of the lignin. In a second stage, he will use sunlight to help create functional materials or a sustainable biofuel. The long-term objective is to better utilize one of our most abundant natural resources. 

Photo: Sebastian Przybylski