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Glue Goes Green

Media Contact:
Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff (202) 720-8188

By Stacy Kish, CSREES Staff
September 17, 2007

Glue is the latest product to go green. Researchers at Oregon State University developed a new, environmentally friendly adhesive made with renewable natural resources. The glue, which replaces current adhesives that release cancer-causing chemicals into the air, will improve the environment and human health, as well as provide new markets for U.S. soybean farmers.

Since the 1940s, adhesive products used to make wood products, such as plywood, particleboard and fiberboard, contained cancer causing-chemicals, such as phenol-formaldehyde and urea-formaldehyde resins.

This product, developed by Kaichang Li and colleagues at Oregon State University, provides a high-performance, formaldehyde-free adhesive alternative. The soy-based adhesive is stronger than, and cost-competitive with, conventional adhesives. Application of this adhesive in U.S. wood products may improve the global competitiveness of U.S wood composite companies, including furniture and kitchen cabinetry industries. In addition, the use of a soy-based adhesive product will enhance the economic benefits to U.S. soybean farmers. 

In 2006, the new adhesive was adopted by industry and replaced more than 47 million pounds of conventional formaldehyde-based adhesives. A study found the new adhesive reduced the emission of hazardous air pollutants, such as formaldehyde, from each plant by 50 to 90 percent.

Li's inspiration for the adhesive came from the strong, water-resistant proteins used by ocean mussels to cling to rocks to avoid being washed away by the surf. He wanted to develop a wood adhesive from renewable natural resources, like soy protein, carbohydrates and lignin that would be strong and water-resistant.

For this achievement, Li, along with partners Columbia Forest Products and Hercules Incorporated, received the Greener Synthetic Pathways Award, one of five 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards, which promote innovative development in, and use of, green chemistry for pollution prevention.

The USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) funded this research project through the National Research Initiative (NRI) Biobased Products and Bioenergy Production Research program. The NRI is the largest peer reviewed, competitive grants program in CSREES. It supports research, education and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.