Study explores bio-based, non-toxic 5-HMF to substitute formaldehyde

Researchers are exploring the possibility of replacing formaldehyde in phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resins with a bio-based, non-toxic platform chemical 5-HMF (5-Hydroxymethylfurfural).

The study, launched by AVALON Industries and supported by the Institute for Materials and Wood Technology at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, builds on the positive results from a research project run by AVALON Industries parent company AVA-CO2.The study is also sponsored by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). 

“We’re delighted to lead yet another project developing non-toxic resins,” says Thomas Kläusli, chief marketing officer at AVALON Industries. “We consider 5-HMF to be the most promising formaldehyde alternative for future resin production.”

The research project, ‘Development of a formaldehyde-free phenol type adhesive system for the manufacturing of plywood’, aims to develop a formaldehyde-free, sustainable phenol-HMF adhesive for industrial use in the wood-processing industry. In addition to replacing formaldehyde, the study will also replace phenol with lignin in order to achieve a truly 100% bio-based adhesive.

Formaldehyde is a key chemical in manufacturing glues and impregnating resins for wood-based products such as particleboard, MDF, OSB, plywood and chipboard. Formaldehyde is classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic in the 6th adaptation to technical and scientific progress of the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) EU directive in June 2014. This classification has far-reaching and immediate consequences for a variety of business sectors, especially in the furniture industry, which uses large quantities of wood-based panels. Worldwide, about 47 million tonnes of formaldehyde are produced annually; the EU produces approximately 10 million tonnes of formaldehyde per year.