SUSBIND’s collaborative partnership of six research and five industry partners from the EU has made substantial progress this year in developing highly sustainable bio-based binders that will in future replace conventional fossil-based ones currently used for wood-based panel boards in furniture mass products.

Towards the Green Deal

The SUSBIND binder aims at containing a significantly lower carbon footprint, while also reducing formaldehyde emissions and thus making a meaningful contribution in improving the public health and helping mitigate climate change. Hand in hand with the Green Deal targets, SUSBIND also provides cutting-edge clean technological innovation by converting carbohydrates and vegetable oils to binder precursors by “mild” technologies, i.g. by converting carbohydrates to Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and vegetable oils and derivates to epoxides.

SUSBIND adhesive and board samples

New alternative technology to incumbent adhesives

As recently suggested by the Scientific Coordinator, Massimo Bregola of Cargill, at the EFIB conference in Oct in Vienna, Austria the wood board industry of today delivers excellent results both in terms of economic, environmental and social perspectives as consequences of decades of process improvement. A completely new alternative to incumbent adhesive technology is a challenge which requires dedication and collaboration across the whole supply chain.

The European carbohydrate market shows the potential to play an important role as a significant source of alternative binders for the wood board industry. The vegetable oil production in Europe is in its place offering the opportunity for a partial replacement of the actual binder system since sustainability elements indicate a better role as specialty ingredients rather than as commodity chemicals.

The project delivered novel technologies, both for enzymatic conversion of lipids and thermo/chemical conversion of carbohydrates which are scalable and applicable in industrial relevant environments.

Massimo Bregola of Cargill (on the right) presents SUSBIND at EFIB 2021 with Stephen Webb of RTDS (left)

Pilot scale evaluation of a new bio-based binder

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions and regulated access to laboratories and work environments, two Austrian SUSBIND partners, EGGER and Wood K Plus started a pilot scale evaluation of the new bio-based binder system in early 2021. This is one of the most important project milestones, opening the way for increased production capacities.

Sugar syrup as the secret ingredient

In the process of developing bio-based binders, SUSBIND tested several carbohydrate feedstocks like fructose, glucose, maltodextrin and found out that fructose-based adhesives have the fastest cure speed and that Fructose 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural improves the tensile shear strength of the adhesive system.

Production of adhesive precursors from carbohydrates via acidic dehydration and catalyst selection according to green chemistry principles that involved utilisation of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural as adhesive crosslinker show promising results of the resin system is that is 85% bio-based. These precursors can be applied directly and the boards containing the SUSBIND adhesive fulfil the standard requirements for indoor furniture quality. The conversion of fructose to HMF was successfully implemented in a continuous microreactor as well as a pressurised batch reactor as shown in this compelling video.

Board hot-pressing and more to come

As a fine recap of the year, the research results were taken from the lab to the factory, the SUSBIND binder was applied to the wood chips in the hot press and the wood particle boards were pressed at the EGGER Group facilities in Austria, as illustrated in this demonstration video.

SUSBIND board pressing at EGGER Group (c) EGGER Group

Stay tuned for the next chapter as the SUSBIND journey will continue next year at our medium-density fibreboard (MDF) producer Valbopan in Portugal, and will then travel north to Sweden, to reach its final destination with our partner and global furniture producer IKEA.