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Improved adhesive for products like transparent tape could benefit biofuels economy
Date:10/29/2009

An adhesive used in products like laminate countertops may also help cement a place for economically viable biofuels, according to a Kansas State University researcher.

Susan Sun directs K-State's Bio Materials and Technology Laboratory, where she studies bio-based materials. Her research group is studying adhesives made from by-products of soybean, corn, sorghum and biomass fuels.

"There are two important forces driving this research," Sun said. "We're trying to develop these bio-based adhesives to replace environmentally hazardous materials," she said. "Also, we need high-value products to sustain the biofuels economy."

Sun said the adhesives commonly used in construction products like kitchen floors and laminate furniture are formaldehyde-based and isocyanide-based. The isocyanide-based adhesives are toxic, she said. Moreover, the formaldehyde-based adhesives affect air quality and human health because the compound's carbon and nitrogen bonds are reversible in humid conditions, emitting formaldehyde into the air.

On the other hand, Sun said biofuels producers need co-products like adhesives to make sustainable fuels economically viable. For biomass biofuels, the amount of energy that goes into producing them is still greater than the energy that the biofuels can produce.

"Biomass by its nature contains not just sugar necessary for the biofuel, but also lignin, protein and other materials," Sun said. "So after you convert it into biofuel, you still have a lot of leftovers. So you have to develop high-value chemicals and bio-based products out of that biomass to balance the economics."

Lignin, a major by-product of cellulosic biomass, is what holds plants upright, Sun said. Without it, plants would grow flat on the ground. This property makes it a good basis for polymers, she said. Lignins show promise for adhesives, she said, because they're rich in aromatic structures with many functional groups.

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Contact: Susan Sun
xss@k-state.edu
785-532-4077
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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