Your Next Piece of Furniture May Be Partially Made from Potatoes

By: | November 28th, 2013

Starch from potatoes is being used as glue in these Medium Density Fiberboards. Image courtesy Andrew Abbott / University of Leicester

What’s normally a side dish may become a side table in your home in the near future. Potatoes are being served up in a new biodegradable, recyclable medium density fiberboard (MDF).

MDF is a popular construction material since it’s an efficient use of precious natural resources. Today, production of MDF is being promoted due to the worldwide shortage and conservation of hardwoods.

It’s prepared by breaking down bits of wood into wood fibers, which are further pressurized and stuck together with resin, wax and heat. The biggest problem with MDF is that it’s not recyclable and formaldehyde resins are used to manufacture it. The formaldehyde resins can be toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic. Moreover, almost 99% of MDF waste is directed towards landfills.

Professor Andrew Abbott and his team at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester have developed a new wood-based product similar to MDF, which is biodegradable and recyclable. Abbott has received the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for this innovation. This wood-based product uses a resin based on starch from completely natural sources, including potatoes.

MDF is often criticized for the amount of waste it generates. However, with this new discovery, the waste generated can either be recycled or composted. The new material looks identical to MDF, which is so commonly used and is easier to work with than current MDF boards. Moreover, the new material is easier to manufacture than existing MDF because the components are straightforwardly pre-mixed and only set on the application of heat and pressure.

This new innovation will revolutionize industries dependent on MDF. It will provide them with a more environmentally-friendly alternative that could dramatically reduce the problem of future waste.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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