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Green to Gold - From academic curiosity to a Multi $Bn Business Opportunity!

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Prof. Zhao has worked for over 20 years on biomaterials and bioapsorptive polymerxs. Recently he was in China to develop a protein based biomatrix as a ‘coating’ treatment for seeds to deliver controlled release of agents to preserve and protect them from environmental damage. As rice seeds were tested and they are immersed in water for a long time, the water resistance of the coating materials was very important. In 2012, Dr Zhao discovered that other plant based protein sources could also be used for seed coating. Following a chance meeting, he discovered these seed coating materials could also be used as bio-adhesives for sticking wood together to make plywood. However, the wet strength would not meet the requirements of current industrial standards. Cambond have pioneered a new process based on the discovery that biomass such as algae and Distiller’s Dry Grains and Solubles (DDGS) , can be crosslinked by isocyanate-containing crosslinking agents, to form a water resistant polymeric network. The isocyanate functional groups are blocked by natural phenol groups in algae or hydroxyl groups from the biomass protecting the isocyanate activities. Blocked isocyanate groups keep the adhesives stable in aqueous adhesives and are less toxic and more stable than virgin isocyanates. De-blocking of the isocyanate-phenol/alcohol conjugates takes place during the heating phase of wood composite manufacture creating strong wood-wood bonds (adhesion). The ‘greenglue’ process is sustainable and efficient (using by-products of existing biotechnology processes, low energetics, no catalysis) and is environmentally friendly. Greenglue can be used as a direct replacement for urea/formaldehyde resins in the woodpanel indusry (a global $500Bn a year market).The low energetics and fact that the biomass can replace fossil fuel feedstocks demonstrates that ‘green glue’ adhesives have enourmous potential to secure a significant space in the global market for commodity adhesives.

This talk is part of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Flows (IEEF) series.

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