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Forget taxes on imports. If a new development from Texas A&M lives up to expectations, the real job creator for the US could lie in harnessing lignin waste. The team behind a new study has discovered a way to make high quality carbon fiber from the material, which could turn the paper and biofuel industries’ discards into a major money spinner and lead to the creation of new manufacturing and jobs on US soil.

Present in all land-based vascular plants, lignin is a water-resistant polymer that gives them their sturdy structure and keeps them from collapsing, among other things. It is also responsible for a lot of waste – about 50 million tons of it ends up being discarded each year by the paper industry in the US, a figure that shoots up by another 100 to 200 million tons when you take into account biorefineries, which use plants to produce ethanol.

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