Some exploratory work was done to look at novel applications, such as filler use and comonomers, for lignin in thermosetting unsaturated polyesters and vinyl esters. The solubility of different lignins (pine kraft, hardwood, ethoxylated, and maleinated) was determined in different resin systems (acrylated epoxidized soybean oil, hydroxylated soybean oil, soy oil monoglyceride, and a commercial vinyl ester) to give an idea of the compatibility of lignin with the resin systems that were used. Further, the use of lignin as a filler was studied. An increase in the glass-transition temperature was noticed, and the modulus at 20°C decreased because of the plasticizing effect of lignin. The lignin was modified to improve its effect on the matrix properties by adding double bond functionality, thus making it possible to incorporate the lignin molecule in the resin through free-radical polymerization. Modified lignin was introduced in several resins by a reaction with maleic anhydride and epoxidized soybean oil and was tested for its effect on the solubility, glass-transition temperature, and modulus. This modification improved the solubility of lignin in styrene-containing resins, as well as the chemical incorporation of lignin in the resin. Moreover, lignin was used to treat the surfaces of natural hemp fibers to utilize lignin's natural affinity for cellulosic fibers. The idea was to cure the surface defects on the natural fibers and increase the bonding strength between the resin and fiber. An optimum improvement was noticed that depended on the amount of lignin covering the fibers. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 83: 323–331, 2002
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