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
Agricultures 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, firstname.lastname@example.org.