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ADVANCING ADHESIVES: A Happy Accident

August 1, 2010
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Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a new PSA that can be produced from a range of vegetable oils.



An incidental discovery in a wood products lab at Oregon State University (OSU) has produced a new pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) that may revolutionize the tape industry. OSU researchers have developed an environmentally benign product that works well and costs less than existing adhesives that are based on petrochemicals. The new adhesive can be produced from a range of vegetable oils and may find applications in almost any type of product requiring a PSA, including duct or packaging tape, stick-on notes, labels, and even postage stamps.

Development

The discovery was made essentially by accident while OSU scientists were looking for something that could be used in a wood-based composite product. They wanted an adhesive that would be solid at room temperature and melt at elevated temperatures. For that, the new product was a failure.

“We were working toward a hot-melt composite adhesive that was based on inexpensive and environmentally friendly vegetable oils,” said Kaichang Li, a professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry. “But what we were coming up with was no good for that purpose; it wouldn’t work. Then I noticed that, at one stage of our process, this compound was a very sticky resin. I told my postdoctoral research associate, Anlong Li, to stop right there. We put some on a piece of paper, pressed it together and it stuck very well, a strong adhesive.”

Shifting gears, the two researchers then worked to develop a PSA. “It’s really pretty amazing,” Li said. “This adhesive is incredibly simple to make, doesn’t use any organic solvents or toxic chemicals, and is based on vegetable oils that would be completely renewable, not petrochemicals. It should be about half the cost of existing technologies and appears to work just as well.”<

Commercialization

According to Li, previous attempts to make PSAs from vegetable oils used the same type of polymerization chemistry as the acrylate-based petrochemicals now used to make tape. They didn’t reduce costs by much or perform as well, he said.

This new approach is based on a different type of polymerization process and produces PSAs that could be adapted for a range of uses; perform well; cost much less; and would be made from renewable crops such as soy beans, corn or canola oil instead of petroleum-based polymers. The technology should be fairly easy to scale-up and commercialize, Li said.

“OSU has applied for a patent on this technology,” said Denis Sather, licensing associate with the OSU Office of Technology Transfer. “We believe this innovation has the potential to replace current pressure-sensitive adhesives with a more environmentally friendly formulation at a competitive price.”

About the OSU College of Forestry

For a century, the College of Forestry at Oregon State University has been a world-class center of teaching, learning and research. It offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in sustaining ecosystems, managing forests and manufacturing wood products; conducts basic and applied research on the nature and use of forests; and operates 14,000 acres of college forests.

Visit www.oregonstate.edu for more information.


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