This proposal seeks funding for the Center for Wood Based Composites (WBC) located at the Virginia Tech Institute. Funding Requests for Fundamental Research are authorized by an NSF approved solicitation, NSF 10-601. The solicitation invites I/UCRCs to submit proposals for support of industry-defined fundamental research.

The U.S. government will soon restrict formaldehyde emissions from select wood composite materials, but at levels very near the native emission of solid wood. These native emissions are poorly documented and not understood. WBC industry members suggest that the chemistry of native emissions must be determined, and that this knowledge will shape efforts to improve adhesive technologies and ultimately control total emissions. This Fundamental Research project complements an existing WBC project, and provides a scientific foundation not possible with current Center resources. In the proposed work, lignin chemistry of pine and aspen woods will be defined using thioacidolysis/desulphurization (T/D). Freshly harvested wood will be analyzed as a function of drying variables, and known chemical markers for lignin-formaldehyde formation will be quantified by T/D. The occurrence of these chemical markers will be correlated to water extractable endogenous wood formaldehyde. These findings will be correlated to gaseous native emissions as determined in the current WBC formaldehyde project.

In the proposed work, central to the plan is the development of advanced and durable wood-based composite materials. With knowledge of the molecular basis of native emissions, the industry can best devise technologies that will reduce total formaldehyde emissions, from adhesive binder and wood. Consequently, home owners will be motivated to maintain preferences for inexpensive and sustainable forest products, while having the added assurance of reduced formaldehyde emission. This effort will also contribute to the fundamental knowledge of lignin chemistry and to the development of new analytical procedures.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Lawrence A. Hornak
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