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Starch-Based Adhesive Holds Promise for Healthier Indoors / April 10, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Starch being applied to a plywood veneer.

Read: more details in Agricultural Research.

Starch-Based Adhesive Holds Promise for Healthier Indoors

By Ben Hardin
April 10, 2000

Indoor air quality may improve once new wood products are made with environmentally friendly, starch-based adhesives--rather than with adhesives made solely from petrochemicals.

Agricultural Research Service scientists have developed a process to make a strong, moisture-resistant adhesive from a combo of cornstarch, polyvinyl alcohol, latex and citric acid. The process requires no volatile formaldehyde or phenols found in conventional wood adhesives. That could be a major selling point for wood products companies: indoor air quality that poses less health risk for the workers.

A fire retardant could be added to composite wood products made with the starch adhesive. Materials with this treatment might be appropriate for kitchen counter tops where many home fires begin and produce toxic fumes.

For outdoor settings, considerable improvement in moisture resistance might be needed to make the new adhesive stand up to weather. But in test conditions harsher and more humid than most indoor settings, plywoods made from birch veneer and starch adhesive measured up to commercial ones. In 98 percent of samples the adhesive proved stronger than the wood.

The researchers at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., came upon the idea of making wood adhesives from starch while researching totally biodegradable starch-based films. Their goal was, and still is, to find ways to make alternatives to plastic agricultural mulch films now used to curb weed growth amid high- value agricultural crops.

Plywood paneling and furniture made from particle board sold each year in the U.S. contain more than a billion pounds of adhesives.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

An article about the research appears in the April issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: Syed H. Imam, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6335, fax (309) 681-6689,

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