Researchers from the University of Illinois have developed a proprietary corn-based composite board that can be used instead of particle board, plywood or fiberboard. Called CornBoard, the invention is not one of those still-in-development laboratory hothouse flowers. The product has been patented for use by a company called Corn Board Manufacturing, Inc. Aside from providing a new use for corn stover (corn husks and stalks), CornBoard could play a role in trapping excess CO2 that would otherwise be released when corn stover decomposes.
How Much Corn Stover is Too Much?
According to the University of Illinois (and they should know!), more than 86 million acres of corn are grown every year in the U.S. For each acre, about 4,000 pounds of corn stover is left in the field. It would only take about two acres of corn stover to make enough CornBoard to outfit a two-story house with decking, flooring, and outdoor wall sheathing. They’re also working on using CornBoard for other household wood-based products such as furniture (check out this video of a CornBoard Adirondak-style chair that snaps together), and cabinets. Oh, and don’t forget your CornBoard longboard.
But What About the Glue?
Conventional adhesives and binders that are used to make composite wood products contain nasty chemicals, but the industry is beginning to transition into non-toxic binders. CornBoard uses a non-toxic resin based binder. Researchers at Oregon State University are also developing a non-toxic adhesive for pressure-sensitive tapes, and adhesives based on tofu are on the horizon. One researcher at the University of Kansas has even developed a soy based adhesive that can be used with straw to make edible feed barrels for cattle.
Image: Corn by quinn.anya on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.