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Formaldehyde-Free Phenolic Bio-Resins


Phenol formaldehyde (PF) resins are synthetic polymers which have a market value of $10 billion globally per year. They are used in a wide variety of products, including coatings, adhesives, laminates, and engineered plastics, which comprise many household and industrial goods such as plywood, countertops, brake pads, and bearings. PF resins are traditionally produced by reacting petroleum-based phenol with highly-carcinogenic formaldehyde. Clearly, there is a need for improvement in PF resin manufacturing to reduce the environmental and health concerns associated with these chemicals.

Description of the Invention

Researchers at Western have invented a novel, one-pot approach at producing bio-based replacements for formaldehyde resins. Two formaldehyde-free resins have been developed: phenol-hydroxymethylfurfural (PHMF) and Bio-PHMF. The PHMF product is produced by reacting synthetic phenol with glucose. The Bio-PHMF product is prepared in a similar manner, but uses bio-phenol (derived from natural lignin) rather than petroleum-based synthetic phenol. Further, both resins can be cured with lignin, as opposed to toxic conventional curing agents. The prepared resins have molecular structures similar to novolac-type PF resins, and have proven excellent mechanical, thermal stability, and glass transition properties, making them outstanding candidates for a variety of exciting applications.

Potential Advantages

• Carcinogenic formaldehyde is replaced by renewable glucose
• Petroleum-based phenol is replaced by bio-phenol associated with traditional data collection methods
• PHMF/bio-PHMF resins can be cured with lignin - a natural polymer found in plants - rather than toxic conventional curing agents such as hexamethylenetetramine (HMTA)
• Use of renewable materials in place of petrochemical feedstocks is an attractive advantage when facing volatile oil prices and an increase in consumer demand for green products

Potential Applications

• Wide range of applications where low cost, environmentally-friendly, formaldehyde-free resins are needed
• The formulation can be adapted to provide various options with flexibility to produce renewable resins according to specific requirements
• Can replace PF in a wide range of industries including automotive, engineered wood, and plastics

Patent Status

PCT patent application filed, PCT/CA2015/050132.

Patent Information:

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