A collaborative study by Mojgan Nejad, of Michigan State University, shows that lignin, a component of wood and byproduct of paper production, can completely replace phenol in phenolic adhesive formulation in products such as plywood. This research directly impacts housing manufacturing by introducing biobased adhesives made of lignin, a renewable resource, instead of petroleum-based phenol.

Nejad’s research is the first instance showing the 100 per cent successful substitution of phenol with lignin. For the last 30 years, researchers have been attempting to fully replace phenol in phenol-based glues. However, only partial replacement, up to 50 per cent, was possible. The research team was successful in testing plywood samples made of developed resin. When compared to commercial petroleum-based adhesives, the plywood made of lignin-based adhesives exhibited similar shear strength under both wet and dry conditions.

Phenol-formaldehyde resins are commonly used to manufacture construction materials such as: plywood, oriented strand board, or OSB, and laminated veneered lumber. These items make up components of roofs, kitchen cabinets, furniture, wood floors and more.

“Our work has opened up an opportunity for the waste generated through bioethanol processes to create adhesives for engineered wood products,” Nejad said. “This will help the housing market to be less dependent on petroleum-based raw materials.”

“Many major pulp and paper and bioethanol producers are keen to find applications for their lignin,” Nejad said.

Researchers from Mississippi State University and University of Toronto also contributed to this study. The project was funded by Poet LLC.

The full article is available in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.