The State of Sustainable Bioproducts
Dr. Mojgan Nejad, Green Bioproducts Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry at MSU, offers insights on the current state of sustainable bioproducts and wood products and technology.
With the environmental effects of climate change becoming increasingly clear, the need for carbon neutral or carbon negative buildings has become greater than ever, and the forest products industry is seeing a great movement toward the production and use of sustainable wood products.
“When we are talking about sustainable raw materials, nothing can compete with forest products,” said Mojgan Nejad, Green Bioproducts Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry at MSU.
The construction industry has seen a consistent increase in products like mass timber (see page 9) replacing concrete and steel, which require higher energy for production. Using wood products in buildings allows those buildings to sequester carbon for 50-60+ years after construction.
Nejad’s lab uses lignin, an underutilized portion of biomass, generated as byproduct during production of pulp and bioethanol, to develop sustainable bioproducts. Nejad’s lab has developed bio-based adhesives by replacing 100% of petroleum-based phenol and polyol with lignin to formulate lignin-based phenolic adhesives for plywood application and lignin-based polyurethane (PU) adhesives for cross-laminated timber (CLT).
“As a wood scientist, I believe that this is an excellent direction that the construction industry is going, but we need to do our part to educate CLT producers, architects and construction managers on proper practices.” Mojgan Nejad
Nejad is leading a consortium of six industry partners – Roseburg, West Fraser, Fortum, Hexion, Henkel and Element 5 – and has received funding ($500,000 CAD) from CRIBE (Center for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy, Canada) to scale up the development of lignin-based phenolic (Hexion), and lignin-based PU (Henkel). These bio-based adhesives produced by Hexion and Henkel will be tested on the manufacturing lines of Roseburg (plywood) and Element 5 (CLT) by 2023.
This is a great era for forest product industries to encourage architects and construction managers to build with mass timber and use bio-based adhesives to improve the sustainability of their products.
While wood scientists are excited about multi-story wooden buildings, they are also working hard to encourage CLT producers to use preservative-treated wood for certain areas. It is imperative to protect wood from decay fungi and termites in contact-ground applications or when building in a warm, humid area like Florida.
“As a wood scientist, I believe that this is an excellent direction that the construction industry is going, but we need to do our part to educate CLT producers, architects and construction managers on proper practices,” said Nejad.
For instance, cross laminated timber (CLT) made with untreated wood is not protected from decay fungi, insects and weathering (UV and rain). Thus, buildings must be designed in a way to prevent the uncoated CLTs from exposure to direct UV and rain, and ensure they are protected by preservative solutions in areas susceptible to termite damage.
Using sustainable wood products in the construction process is a positive trend that can have major implications towards the goal of carbon neutral or carbon negative buildings in development, but it is a trend that must be monitored and carefully executed to ensure the quality and longevity of the materials being used.