Lignosulfonates are polyelectrolyte polymers produced from the pulping process of bamboo and wood. These water-soluble polymers deliver excellent dispersant properties and are typically used in various processes due to their renewability and versatility. They are available in different salts. The most common are sodium lignosulfonate, ammonium lignosulfonate and ammonium calcium lignosulfonate.

In this post, we will look at the variations between calcium lignosulfonate and sodium lignosulfonate.

Calcium lignosulfonate

Calcium lignosulfonate or wood calcium is the calcium salt of lignosulfonate. It is an anionic surfactant, a brownish-yellow powder and has a slight aromatic odour. It exhibits excellent adhesion, chelating, and dispersibility properties. Calcium lignosulfonate products are used as pesticide suspension agents, ceramic body enhancers, granulating agents, and refractory binders.

Application of Calcium Lignosulfonates in Various Industries

  • Mineral Binding: Calcium lignosulfonate is mixed with minerals to create mineral powder balls, dried, and placed in a kiln to enhance smelting recovery.
  • Refractory materials: In manufacturing refractory tiles and bricks, Calcium lignosulfonate can be used as an adhesive and dispersant, enhancing operating performance. It also ensures the material has good strengthening, crack prevention, and water reduction properties.
  • Ceramics: Calcium lignosulfonate is used in the ceramic industry to reduce carbon levels and improve green strength. The sintering speed is reduced to 40 minutes, and the yield increases up 90%.
  • Agrichemicals: Calcium lignosulfonate is used in agriculture as a fertiliser dispersant, an ingredient in stock feed, and a dust suppressant. It is used as soil chelate, where calcium is used as the nutrient administered to the plant.

Sodium Lignosulfonate

Sodium lignosulfonate or sodium lignin is another salt of lignosulfonate, where the lignosulfonate is bonded to a sodium ion instead of a calcium ion. It is a natural polymer with excellent dispersibility properties. Due to the difference in functional groups and molecular weight, it has varying degrees of dispersibility. Since it has several active groups in its structure, it can produce hydrogen bonding or condensation with other compounds.

Application of Sodium lignosulfonate

Many of the applications for all lignosulfonates are the same, where the salt can be changed to manipulate different properties- for example in sodium deficient soil, sodium lignosulfonate would be added to fertiliser instead of calcium lignosulfonate.

Sodium lignosulfonate can be used in lead batteries to crystallise lead sulphate, thus improving the battery’s useful life. In the production of plasterboard, sodium lignosulfonate helps reduce the amount of water needed to form a layer between two sheets and enhance stucco flow.

In the oil and gas industry, sodium lignosulfonate is used as a dispersant. Studies to justify its use in improved oil recovery are still underway. It is also used for many other applications including pesticides, mineral powder, petroleum, carbon black, coal water slurry, construction admixtures and metallurgy.

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