Particle Board

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 11 March, 2010 at

This article is about particle board. One project I took on in the past involved researching a new type of particle board that did not have the flaws of existing versions. Particle board is widely known as a cheap method of creating furniture that can be rapidly put together and sold to the mass market, with inexpensive components. The way it works is that you have a tackifier, or a glue, that is mixed with sawdust, and it creates pieces of material that can be cheaply molded into any shape you want, from a bed to a dresser to a table. Since we are using sawdust here, it’s not necessary to chop down any old growth forests, any tree will do and it is even possible to make particle board out of shrubs if they have enough bark to them. Particle board also has a few problems with its use.

What are these problems? Well, the glue is a major issue. Many types of glue are made with harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, used to preserve dead bodies so you can imagine what it does to a living creature. You also have to watch out for the other steps in the process, such as bleaching the sawdust particles to create the correct color, which can also let off toxic vapors. There are many types of glue that do not have these problems, although this brings up another issue. Glues that are water soluble cannot be used in particle board constructions that are used outdoors. The furniture will eventually swell up and warp, a big problem if you were using cabinets and dressers to store anything fragile. Vapor from the constructions is also a problem, as you may be able to smell the formaldehyde if you currently have any particle board furniture in your house.

The issue here is to create a new type of particle board that is cheaper than the existing types, while not having the same issues of warping and toxicity that existing types of furniture on the market have. Since there are many different types of glue, anything with the same or stronger ability to stick the particle board together will be effective. Professor Kaichang Li is an expert in this field and has supervised many projects at Oregon State University. The link mentions a new adhesive made of soy flour and a curing agent, which lacks the formaldehyde toxicity problems that are seen with other types of particle board on the market.

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