The petroleum-based adhesives used to make plywood and many other wood products have a nasty habit of leaching toxic formaldehyde fumes, but all that is on the way out. Scientists from the USDA Forest Products Laboratory are working on a new class of soy-based wood adhesive that uses a substance found in soy milk and tofu.
Soy-based wood adhesives that perform as well as their petroleum-based cousins are already inching their way into the market, but the USDA scientists have a more ambitious goal: to develop soy-based glues that are even stronger than conventional glues.
The soy glue research is part of a broader trend toward developing glues based on nontoxic substances rather than on harsh chemicals. It’s not all about the the environmental and health issues, either. The long-term outlook for supply and price stability in the oil market is iffy, to say the least, and composite wood product manufacturers are eager to find a more reliable source for this key ingredient. Aside from plywood and other building and furniture components, there is a world of possibilities for using bio-based adhesives to boost the bottom line. For example, a researcher at Kansas State University has developed an edible cattle feed barrel made from straw and soy adhesive, which saves farmers a substantial amount on cleaning and shipping conventional feed barrels.
More Bio-Based Adhesives in the Future
Soy products are just one potential feedstock for bio-glues. The Kansas State team is also looking into using byproducts from corn, sorghum and other biofuel crops to make adhesives, as a means of adding value to biofuel operations. Scientists at the University of Oregon have been working with bio-based adhesives made from soy and other vegetable oils, specifically for use in developing greener adhesive tapes.
Image: Tofu by FotoosVaRobin on flickr.com.