Ateam of Auburn University (AU) researchers is perfecting a particleboard recipe using soy flour as a binder — an ingredient substitution poised to add value to soybeans while saving companies money.
A $25,000 grant from the Alabama Soybean Checkoff is funding the research, spearheaded by AU Forest Products Development Center Director Brian Via and Georgia Tech’s Dr. Sujit Banerjee.
“Using soy flour in engineered wood products is an opportunity to cross-pollinate two of Alabama’s industries — soybean and timber,” Via said. “Bridging this gap will improve our state’s economy.”
Particleboard is an engineered wood product used most commonly in indoor furniture such as tables, bookshelves and cabinets. The binder, or glue, is a large portion of the manufacturing price, so substituting less expensive components such as soy flour could significantly reduce the wood product’s cost.
Via estimates soy flour is three times cheaper than MDI (polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate), the base resin commonly used to manufacture wood composites.
“In previous research (funded by the United Soybean Board), we successfully added soy flour resin to OSB (oriented strand board),” Via said. “We are trying to take what we learned from that project and apply it to particleboard.”
In OSB, about 20 percent of MDI can be substituted with soy flour without diminishing performance and quality. Via’s team is now determining the percent of soy flour the particleboard composite can support.
“The goal is for particleboard with added soy flour to perform on the same level as the normal product,” Via said.
To gauge performance level, the particleboard is tested for features such as durability, strength and water resistance.
Using soy flour in particleboard would positively impact the soybean industry, said the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady. One particleboard mill could use approximately 150,000 bushels of soy each year, pending the substitution level Via perfects.
“The soybean checkoff is a self-imposed tax farmers pay to further soy-related research, promotion and education,” said Hornady, the Federation’s Soybean Division director. “Dr. Via’s research is just one way farmers are funding product development that will benefit growers and the soy industry as a whole.”
Consumers and manufacturers benefit from replacing petroleum-based MDI with soy flour, too, through increased sustainability and air quality. It’s a win-win-win project, said Alabama Soybean Committee Chairman Colt Clemmons.
“Increasing demand for soybeans will yield positive results for the state’s farmers,” said Clemmons, who farms in Lauderdale County. “We’re excited to see where this project leads and the effect it will have on Alabama soybean production.”