U of T researchers turn tree bark into green adhesives and foams for industry

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 3:15:00 AM

Professors Ning Yan and Mohini Sain of the Faculty of Forestry and Professor Ramin Farnood of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and colleagues at Lakehead University are working to transform tree bark, generally discarded by sawmills or used for hog fuel (wood chips or shavings), to create environmentally friendly green adhesives and bio-based foams for use in industry. 

This "magic" waste material contains extracts that can become the building blocks for eco-friendly adhesives and foams that are used in products as diverse as insulation materials, auto components and building and construction parts. If successful, chemicals and green products from this renewable material will substitute for the traditional petroleum-derived ingredients.

Funded by the University of Toronto, the Ontario Research Fund and industry, the $5.25-million endeavor will be done in collaboration with industry partners including FPInnovations, Woodbridge, Huntsman, Arclin, St-Mary's Paper, Tembec and AbitibiBowater.  They set out to explore the concept of a bark biorefinery, much like a petrochemical refinery, where instead of crude, bark is converted to multiple products.

The team has chosen to focus on adhesives and foam, not only because of large market size (billions of dollars) but also because the same technology, solvent liquefaction, is used to convert bark from solid to liquid as the starting precursor to both products.

This is an edited excerpt from an article found at www.news.utoronto.ca

For more information on the U of T researchers:
Ning Yan: http://www.forestry.utoronto.ca/people/yan/yan.html
Mohini Sain: http://www.forestry.utoronto.ca/people/sain/index.htm
Ramin Farnood: http://www.chem-eng.utoronto.ca/facultystaff/profs/farnood.htm