Furniture from Petrochemical-Free MDF – A step closer

Dr Warren Grigsby heads a research team at the Scion forestry research facility in Rotorua where, for the past seven years, they’ve been working on a healthy “green” bio-based adhesive for use in the manufacture of plywood and medium density fibreboard (MDF).

Plywood manufactured from bioadhesives

Plywood manufactured from bioadhesives

New Zealand manufacturers of MDF have been looking at ways to reduce formaldehyde emissions of products for many years, in response to regulatory pressure from overseas markets. In late 2008, Scion initiated a research programme to create “green” bioadhesives without using formaldehyde or petrochemicals.

Warren and his team had to start from scratch, extracting chemicals from forestry and agricultural residues such as Kraft liquor from pulp and paper mills, and arable crop processing waste. They then re-formulated the ingredients in new ways to create the building blocks for bioadhesives. The team eventually developed a recipe capable of holding together an MDF panel, and things started cooking from there.

Warren says the products’ green credentials will provide manufacturers with a competitive advantage over wood panel processors using conventional petrochemical adhesives and resins.

“Adhesives and resins made from natural sources have a lower environmental footprint and are considered more socially acceptable than their traditional formaldehyde-based counterparts. We conducted an analysis of our bioadhesives in 2014, which showed the engineered wood products have a 22% lower environmental impact over their lifecycle than those using adhesives derived from petrochemicals”.

Dr Warren Grigsby and his research team are making their bioadhesives commercially available

Dr Warren Grigsby and his research team are making their bioadhesives commercially available

Warren also spent several weeks at the Forest & Forest Products Research Institute in Japan last year, working on a collaborative project to assess emissions produced from wood panels made using bioadhesives.

“We measured the volatile organic compounds emitted during the hot press manufacturing of hardwood plywood panels made using our bioadhesives, and the subsequent emissions released over seven days. The results clearly showed that our bioadhesives have very low formaldehyde emissions which were lower than wood alone, and that the use of our ingredients contributed to this”.

MDF Boards manufactured from bioadvesives

MDF Boards manufactured from bioadvesives

In New Zealand, 20% of the plywood manufactured is interior grade and used for wall linings, doors and furniture. Warren would eventually like to see all interior grade plywood made using bioadhesives to support a healthier living environment for kiwis.

At this stage, seeing a range of quality furniture made from wood panels using “green” bioadhesives will be a well-deserved reward for seven years in the Scion master kitchen. The panels produced during the commercial trials have already been released to several design companies to see what they come up with.

Source: Scion – Connections

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