The first commercially viable non-toxic fiber board

2013-13 NFC board

UMaine formaldehyde-free particle board sample

This invention provides particle board or fiber board that is 100% non-toxic and 25% stronger than currently available products.  This is accomplished by replacing commonly used formaldehyde based resins with a safe, renewable nanocellulose based binder.

Benefits:

  • Reduction of health problems and related expenses ($9m – $48m per year1) caused by formaldehyde exposure
  • 25% strength increase reduces material and transportation costs
  • Nanocellulose, a renewable resource, replaces binders generally synthesized from non-renewable resources

Most conventionally manufactured particle board contains a formaldehyde-based binder system which releases toxic formaldehyde into living spaces. Exposure to formaldehyde causes respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, cancer, and reproductive issues. The UMaine cellulose nanofiber adhesive system is a non-toxic alternative to formaldehyde based adhesives.

While there are no other 100% safe binders available2, current better alternatives to formaldehyde-based binders include adhesive systems comprised of soy, polyvinyl acetate (PVA), and methylene diisocyanate (MDI) and Ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) resins.  Soy binders appear to adequately address the toxicity problem,   however, a leading soy binder has another primary component, polyamideepichlorohydrin (PAE) resin, which in turn is manufactured from a chemical known as epichlorohydrin, a probable or likely human carcinogen.  No toxic precursors are required for the UMaine system.

As an additional benefit, early tests of the UMaine boards demonstrate a 25% increase in strength compared to the same size conventional board.  This translates into opportunities for stronger structures and/or cheaper building and transportation costs.

Inventors: Doug Bousfield, Mike Bilodeau

Tech Ref.: 2013-13

Patent Pending

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1. According to the Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products; Proposed Rule [RIN 2070-AJ92; FRL-9342-3], the benefits of avoiding formaldehyde are substantial. “For the subset of health effects where the results were quantified, the estimated annualized benefits (due to avoided incidence of eye irritation and nasopharyngeal cancer) are $20 million to $48 million per year using a 3% discount rate, and $9 million to $23 million per year using a 7% discount rate…. There are additional unquantified benefits due to respiratory and other avoided health effects.”

2. The “Alternative Resin Binders for Particleboard, Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), and Wheatboard” report issued by the Global Health and Safety Initiative, no alternatives have been identified that are 100% safe.   “At this point in the development of alternatives to urea formaldehyde (UF) resins in particleboard, MDF, and wheat board products, there has yet to be a product that can replace UF that does not raise some environmental health concerns.”  This report did not example cellulose nanofiber adhesive as an alternative.

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