SUSBIND consortium capitalises on excellent results for biobased binders for furniture at the project end

As the climate changes, the furniture of the future will have to be sustainable, multi-functional and efficient. Nowadays, the wood board industry relies heavily on fossil-based binders that contain formaldehyde. Having the circular economy in mind, there have been many initiatives to produce alternative binders from renewable resources, but a bio-based binder at industrial scale does not yet exist.

SUSBIND’s collaborative partnership consisting of six research and five industry partners was able to develop a bio-based binder for the manufacture of interior particleboards and medium density fibreboard (MDF).

SUSBIND Consortium members at Valbopan factory, in Nazaré, Portugal

Major scientific results

SUSBIND partners experimented with crops such as natural side streams, surplus carbohydrates, plant oils and fats to convert them into a bio-based chemical composition binder.

Wood K plus scientists meet industrial partners of Cargill

The scientific work focused on two main topics: First, on developing enzymatic technology for epoxidising complex mixtures of fatty acids obtained from vegetable oils and second, on developing a carbohydrate-based pathway for binder production. The most effective green raw material for reactive intermediates has proven to be carbohydrates. Different binder compositions were tested in laboratory experiments.  The most promising binders comprised fructose, HMF and hexamethylenediamine (HMDA) and bishexamethylenetriamine (BHT) as amine crosslinkers.

In simple terms, the outcome is a sugar-based binder that we obtain from surplus and sustainable feedstock from European bio-refineries. Because 80% of the sugar-based binder is derived from biomass, wood-based boards can be almost entirely made from renewable resources. In addition, the sugar-based binder is expected to lower indoor emissions. This will improve the air we breathe in our houses and offices.

Industrial contribution: PB and MDF testing and production

The binder was also tested at a lab-scale for binder characteristics such as viscosity, solid content and pH, bonding strength development, pressing times and temperatures, strength and curing speed being the most important qualities. SUSBIND industry partners produced the particleboards and MDF boards. Further validation of the produced SUSBIND-bonded boards was undertaken by producing a prototype furniture (TRL5) by IKEA of Sweden. The sustainable prototype box “SUSKET” was inspired by the IKEA’s famous EKET.

Most important technical results suggest the following:

  • PB boards are comparable to UF-bonded ones in terms of internal bond strength and press time.
  • The SUSBIND particleboards surpassed the requirements of the European standard EN312, class P2
  • MDF optimisation was possible even with 8% binder and was in line with European regulations in terms of density, flexion, elasticity, internal bond, humidity resistance and deflection resistance need further optimisation in the formulation.
  • The SUSBIND project sets the collaboration framework as well as the technical solution for the future of bio-based binders for furniture. Up to 80% of the bulk of the SUSBIND binder is made up of renewable materials. It has a lower impact on human health, is formaldehyde-free, and has a 5% reduction in carbon footprint. The carbon footprint reduction now at 5% needs to be optimised and it is very likely that further research could achieve further carbon footprint reduction. 

On the left a SUSBIND MDF board produced by Valbopan and on the right a SUSKET box produced by IKEA

A Way into the future

Now is Europe’s chance to capitalize on the exciting untapped potential shown by the SUSBIND results. SUSBIND was set out to have a dream to deliver something sustainable for future generations. With the cooperation of the partners, and many stakeholders along the value chain, we have come a long way to make that dream a game changing reality in the future.