Final Report: Commercialization of a Formaldehyde-free Soy-based Adhesive for Production of Plywood

EPA Contract Number: EPD11069
Title: Commercialization of a Formaldehyde-free Soy-based Adhesive for Production of Plywood
Investigators: Kesinger, Nicholas
Small Business: Lao K LLC
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2013
Project Amount: $224,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2011) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Green Buildings


Interior wood composite panels are widely used for furniture, bookshelf, kitchen cabinets, flooring and other building materials, and are predominately made with carcinogenic urea-formaldehyde (UF) resin. New formaldehyde-free wood adhesives that mainly consists of abundant, renewable and readily available soybean flour and novel curing agents have been developed in a laboratory and successfully used for production of plywood in mill trials in the project funded by an EPA Phase I grant. One of the most promising soy-based adhesives consists of soy flour and a natural product as a curing agent and is 100 percent based on natural materials (i.e., does not contain any petrochemicals or petrochemical-based products). The adhesive does not contain formaldehyde and will not emit formaldehyde or any other hazardous volatile organic compounds. This is the most environmentally friendly, green wood adhesive in the history of wood adhesives. This adhesive is superior to the UF resin in terms of the strengths and water-resistance of resulting wood composite panels. The overall goal of this project is to fully commercialize this new soy-based adhesive for the production of plywood in a commercial plywood plant.
In this project, Lao K LLC has done numerous laboratory experiments and mill trials of this soy-(natural curing agent) adhesive (simply called soy-NCA adhesive) for the commercial production of plywood panels. More specifically, Lao K LLC has investigated: (1) the effective range of hot-press conditions, such as hot-press time and hot-press temperature; (2) the effective range of adhesive usage; (3) effects of purity and particle sizes of the NCA on the plywood properties; (4) effects of the types and sources of soy flour; (5) effects of long term storages of the soy flour-NCA mixture; and (6) bonding ability of the soy-NCA adhesive for veneers from different wood species and veneers stored at different temperatures.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The soy-NCA adhesive can be used for commercial production of plywood under hot-press conditions that are commonly used for UF resins. No modifications of existing production lines in plywood plants are needed. The adhesive usage is lower than that of UF resins. Neither the purity nor particle sizes of the NCA has significant impacts on plywood properties. The types of soy flour have significant impacts on the plywood properties. The soy-NCA mixture can be stored for at least one year without losing its superior adhesive properties. The soy-NCA adhesive can bond all wood veneers commonly used for interior plywood such as pine, fir, yellow poplar, oak, and maple very well. The adhesive works better for cold veneers than for hot veneers.


After 2 years of hard work, Lao K LLC has successfully commercialized this soy-NCA adhesive for production of various interior plywood panels. We have successfully developed the first commercially viable, environmentally friendly, 100 percent natural material-based (i.e., petrochemical-independent), cost-competitive, strong and water-resistant, superior wood adhesive in the long history of wood adhesives. We have successfully achieved the goal of this project. The success of this project will greatly improve indoor air quality, and our working and living environments, significantly reduce the use of petrochemicals in building materials, and greatly enhance global competitiveness of the U.S. wood composite manufacturers.

Supplemental Keywords:

soy flour, wood adhesives, formaldehyde-free, plywood, green buildings

SBIR Phase I:

Mill Trials of a Novel Formaldehyde-Free Soy-Based Wood Adhesive for Making Plywood