This bark has commercial bite

Jan 26, 2011 By Elaine Smith

Researchers at the Faculty of Forestry and Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering are working to transform a forest industry waste product into a steady source of income with the help of the provincial government and private industry.

Professor Ning Yan and her team are using tree bark, generally discarded by sawmills or used for hog fuel, to create environmentally friendly green and bio-based foams for use in industry.

“Bark is available in large quantities,” said Yan, noting that in Ontario alone about six million bone-dry tonnes are available annually “and it is material ready to be utilized.”

Depending on the species of tree being considered, the bark makes up six to 22 per cent of the trunk’s weight.

This “magic” waste material contains extracts that can become the building blocks for eco-friendly adhesives and foams that are used in products as diverse as insulation materials, auto components and building and construction parts. If successful, chemicals and green products from this renewable material will substitute for the traditional petroleum-derived ingredients. Yan and her team believe the market is ready and waiting.

Yan, Professor Mohini Sain and Professor Ramin Farnood at U of T and colleagues at Lakehead University, together with the industry partners, including FPInnovations, Woodbridge, Huntsman, Arclin, St-Mary’s Paper, Tembec and AbitibiBowater, will be working together in a public-private partnership. The university, the Ontario Research Fund and industry are each funding a third of the $5.25-million endeavour. They set out to explore the concept of a bark biorefinery, much like a petrochemical refinery, where instead of crude, bark is converted to multiple products.

“Industry is willing to use these products if we create them,” she told her audience at the recent project start-up meeting, attended by representatives from the seven industrial partners and a number of tech transfer organizations, as well as government officials.

The team has chosen to focus on adhesives and foam, not only because of large market size (billions of dollars) but also because the same technology, solvent liquefaction, is used to convert bark from solid to liquid as the starting precursor to both products.

“Initial findings are quite promising but we have only just scratched the surface so far,” Yan said.

Stay tuned … the next car you drive may … and that won’t be from your four-legged friend.

Explore further: Rooting out horse-meat fraud in the wake of a recent food scandal

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using bark to vacuum oil spills

Nov 12, 2010

Cleaning up oil spills is a time consuming, difficult process. But a novel approach developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) uses a new kind of vacuum cleaner that blows bark ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

15 hours ago

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

17 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

17 hours ago

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Separation of para and ortho water

Sep 18, 2014

( —Not all water is equal—at least not at the molecular level. There are two versions of the water molecule, para and ortho water, in which the spin states of the hydrogen nuclei are different. ...

User comments : 0