Lignin-derived Carbon Storing Foams for High Performance Insulation

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Knoxville, Tennessee
Project Term:
10/28/2022 - 10/27/2024

Technology Description:

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) will develop higher performance, carbon-negative, and eco-friendly lignin polyurethane (PU) foams as a building insulation material via non-isocyanate synthesis. Non-isocyanate PU via polyaddition of cyclic carbonates and amines is non-toxic and non-moisture sensitive. Lignin is inherently hydrophobic, antibacterial, and fire-resistant, which are essential properties of insulation materials. Lignin’s propensity to char instead of ignite is advantageous but insufficient to address modern anti-flammability requirements. UTK will apply anti-flammability agents to meet this requirement. The team will demonstrate that these new bio-derived PU foams can be readily converted to biochar via thermal decomposition at end-of-life for long-term soil carbon capture and improved soil productivity.

Potential Impact:

HESTIA projects will facilitate the use of carbon storing materials in building construction to achieve net carbon negativity by optimizing material chemistries and matrices, manufacturing, and whole-building designs in a cost-effective manner.


HESTIA technologies will reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment.


Building materials and designs developed under HESTIA will draw down and store CO2 from the atmosphere.


A variety of promising carbon storing materials are being explored and commercialized for building construction. Currently these materials are generally scarcer, cost more per unit, and/or face performance challenges (e.g., flame resistance for biogenic carbon-containing materials). HESTIA seeks technologies that overcome these barriers while nullifying associated emissions and increasing the total amount of carbon stored in the finished product.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Laurent Pilon
Project Contact:
Dr. Art Ragauskas
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


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