A new group of adhesives developed by researchers from the College of Forestry
at Oregon State University
may revolutionize a large portion of the wood products industry, provide a significant
new market for soy beans, and have important environmental and economic benefits.
The discovery has resulted in three pending patents and will lead to a wide
range of new products. But it was originally based on the aroused curiosity
of Kaichang Li, an OSU assistant professor of wood chemistry, who was harvesting
mussels one day at the ocean's edge. Li observed mussels being pounded by ocean
waves, and wondered how they could cling so tenaciously to rocks by their thread-like
"I was amazed at the ability of these small mollusks to attach themselves
so strongly to rocks," Li said. "I didn't know of any adhesive that could work
this well in water and withstand so much force."
A study of the chemistry of this attachment ultimately led to creation of
a new group of adhesives based on renewable natural materials, such as soy bean
protein or wood lignin. The new adhesives may replace some of the formaldehyde-based
wood adhesives currently used to make wood composite products, such as plywood,
oriented strand board, particle board, and laminated veneer lumber. One of these
patented adhesives is cost-competitive to the commonly used urea-formaldehyde
resins, researchers say, but does not use formaldehyde or other toxic chemicals.
Formaldehyde has been shown to be a human carcinogen, a concern for some residential
building products. The other key advantage of the new adhesives is their superior
strength and water resistance.
"The plywood we make with this adhesive can be boiled for several hours and
the adhesive holds as strong as ever," Li said. "Regular plywood bonded with
urea-formaldehyde resins could never do that." "This technology looks extremely
promising in a variety of markets," said Brian Wall of the OSU Office of Technology
Transfer, which has already reached the first licensing agreement with a company
on a product that will be in commercial application soon. "We are actively seeking
More than $2 billion a year are spent on wood adhesives in the U.S. and Canada,
and soy bean production is one of the nation's major agricultural industries.