Potatoes in your wood? The strange image of the root vegetable sticking out of your furniture might not be happening but a new form of wood is using the starch from potatoes as glue to create Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). Many aren’t familiar with what MDF is but it’s actually found throughout our homes in furniture and shelving.
The construction material is a composite wood product. It is made of small fibers of soft and hard wood combined with resin and compressed at high temperatures to form a very smooth, cheap and easily cut wood. Unfortunately, it is also a large waste producer and not easily recyclable. However, this may have changed with University of Leicester’s recent announcement of the creation of a biodegradable and recyclable form of MDF.
Professor Andrew Abbott of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester has created a new MDF that uses resin derived from natural sources. This new resin is made from starches, including the starch of potatoes. This is a breakthrough in sustainable building material because current resin for MDF is urea-formaldehyde (UF) which can increase cancer risks among those who work with the resin as well as make the wood unrecyclable.
In addition to Abbott’s new environmentally-friendly MDF, researchers also discovered it is much easier to manufacture. The added bonus of easier manufacturing and the use of more friendly environmental materials should make Abbott’s MDF a competitive and logical new form of building material.
According to FIRA, 99 percent of the 198 tons of MDF waste produced by the furniture industry in the United Kingdom (UK) every year ends up in landfills. University of Leicester’s press release reports that almost a 1,102,311 tons of MDF is produced every year in the UK. That is a lot of material that will end up in the landfills in the future if a change isn’t made now!
Vice president and treasurer of the Royal Society, Professor Anthony Cheetham told the University of Leicester, “It is impressive to see someone take a material that is commonplace in all of our homes and solve its key limitations. Professor Abbott has managed to re-invent MDF, transforming it into a product that has much more relevance in an environmentally conscious society.”
Professor Abbott has been awarded the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2013, which will help pave the road for his new MDF to enter the marketplace. To do this, he has been given $232,530 to transition his MDF from laboratory to prototype, hopefully ending up with a new environmentally-friendly product.
Perhaps the next piece of furniture you buy might be made from MDFs created by Abbott’s starch resin, making it biodegradable. Now, how cool would that be?!
Image Source: Glenn/Flickr