Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Wood-plastic Composites To Boost Industry, Help Use Waste Products

Date:
October 3, 2006
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
Wood science researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have developed new wood-plastic composites that are stronger and less expensive than any similar products now available -- a major breakthrough for this growing industry.

Wood science researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have developed new wood-plastic composites that are stronger and less expensive than any similar products now available -- a major breakthrough for this growing industry.

Wood-plastic composites, often used for such things as outdoor decking, are one of the fastest growing components of the wood composites industry. Some projections have suggested that these products, which were used for less than 1 percent of decking in the mid-1990s, may capture 20 percent of that market by 2010.

"Composite products made from wood and plastic are highly desirable for their low maintenance and ability to resist rot," said Kaichang Li, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Wood Science and Engineering. "But their use has been limited because of high cost and low strength, a result of inadequate adhesion between the wood fibers and plastic."

Fundamentally, Li said, this is because wood and plastic are like oil and water, and do not mix well. Wood is hydrophilic -- it absorbs water -- and plastic is hydrophobic, repelling it. A "compatibilizer," typically a polymer that bridges the interface between the wood and plastic in these products, improves stress transfer and increases their strength and stiffness.

The new wood-plastic composites use superior compatibilizers developed in Li's laboratory, and an innovative technology for mixing wood and thermoplastics such as nylons, in which the melting temperature of the plastic is higher than the wood degradation temperature.

With this approach, the new wood-plastic composites can use very inexpensive plastics such as those found in old carpet fibers -- about 4.4 billion pounds of which are now wasted every year, going into landfills where they are extremely slow to biodegrade and pose a significant waste disposal problem.

They could also open the door for improved utilization of low-grade woody biomass from needed thinning of Oregon forests, which is increasingly being done to improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfire. A better "value added" use for that wood fiber could be important, experts say.

The technology may prompt a major expansion of the wood-plastic composite industry into new types of products and uses, experts say. In particular, such products may help further replace wood treated with chemical preservatives, some of which have already been banned due to health and environmental concerns.

"This new material is far superior to anything currently available in the wood-plastic composite market," Li said. "It should become an important new product and an industry with the potential for rapid growth."

So far, the research on the new product has only been done at a laboratory scale. Findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science and other professional publications.

Scientists now want to duplicate the findings at something much closer to an industrial scale, which they will be able to do with the contribution to OSU of a $180,000 extruder from ENTEK, a Lebanon, Ore., firm that manufactures extruders for bio-based composites.

A local startup company in Corvallis, Sustainable Industries Group, LLC, is also supporting the research. And the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute has provided support to get the new equipment installed, which also has the capability to produce nanocomposite materials.

The new wood-plastic composites are just the latest advance with new adhesives and materials from Li's research programs. In the past few years, his research also began a revolution in wood adhesives. Inspired by the way mussels on the ocean shore cling to rocks despite pounding waves, Li found their secret -- an unusual adhesive that could be mimicked by modifications of abundant and inexpensive soy protein. The modified soy protein can be used as an adhesive for production of plywood, particleboard and other wood composite panels, without giving off the carcinogenic formaldehyde fumes common with traditional wood adhesives.

That patented adhesive has already been commercially used for production of wood composite panels by Columbia Forest Products, the largest producer of decorative interior panels in the nation. All plywood plants of Columbia Forest Products have been converted to using the new technology in face of rapidly rising demand.

And one of the latest innovations, still in early research phases, is cellulose crystals from wood for use in rubber products. Products such as tires now often use silica in their manufacturing processes, which can create waste disposal concerns. The use of wood -- a renewable material -- might address that problem and some day have the nation driving on tires made at least partially out of trees.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oregon State University. "New Wood-plastic Composites To Boost Industry, Help Use Waste Products." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061002214605.htm>.
Oregon State University. (2006, October 3). New Wood-plastic Composites To Boost Industry, Help Use Waste Products. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061002214605.htm
Oregon State University. "New Wood-plastic Composites To Boost Industry, Help Use Waste Products." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061002214605.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins