A novel process for converting wood chips into improved composite boards, chemcials, and fuels.

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: N/A
Agency Tracking Number: 2007-00326
Amount: $349,914.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2008
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
2912 SYENE RD, Fitchburg, WI, 53713
DUNS: 141816434
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Masood Akhtar
 (608) 332-0189
Business Contact
 Eric Horn
Title: Research Microbiologist
Phone: (608) 332-0191
Email: ehorn@biopulping.com
Research Institution
The Medium Density Fiberboard or MDF industry in North America is facing many challenges, largely as a result of the weak housing market. Residential construction is 20 percent below 2006 levels and it is not likely that an improvement will happen before mid 2008. Rising imports of secondary wood products from China and other low costs countries also have a detrimental impact on the North American production of furniture, mouldings, and other secondary wood products. In an environment of fierce international competition, Canadian and other foreign mills exporting to the USA are usually absorbing the exchange losses themselves, rather than losing the sale to a competitor. In addition, the MDF industry has to grapple with expensive and ever stiffer environmental regulations. We expect upward pressure on prices during the next five years, particularly from 2008 onwards, as environmental standards increase the cost of resins and demand escalates. The companies specializing in higher value added products are doing better. Therefore, the North American MDF industry is progressing by way of shifting its production towards higher value-added products. We have developed an innovative process of treating wood chips with a dilute solution of oxalic acid, patent pending, for the production of MDF, which compared to the control is more resistant to water infiltration in 24 hour swelling and water adsorption tests. The process not only produces value added MDF with increased strength, reduced moisture content, reduced energy consumption, etc. with reduced manufacturing cost but also further increases the profitability of this industry by producing a stream of carbohydrate resource that can be converted into cellulosic ethanol and other value added chemicals. The proposed research fits both USDAs crosscutting priorities, Agriculturally related manufacturing technology and alternative and renewable energy. Making ethanol from cellulose dramatically expands the types and amount of available material for ethanol production and would not compete with food supplies. Presently ethanol is made where grain is available. An ethanol manufacturing facility could be co located with a MDF plant. Additional societal impact will be gained if material from overcrowded forests is proven suitable for the process. The rural economic development will be an advantage, but if material thinned from our forests can be used then the health of the forests and help in prevention of forest fires will also be increased. This will enhance our resource base by providing new carbohydrate for fermentation and health of the environment by improving our standing forests. Each new identified source of carbohydrate that can be converted into fuels and chemicals will help to increase our energy independence. Cellulose ethanol production will also provide additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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