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Thanks to Tofu, The Plywood of the Future Will Be Safer and Healthier

USDA scientists are developing soy based glues using a substance found in tofu and soy milkThe 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.

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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 End of Toxic Adhesives

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.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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