Real-time Prediction of Formaldehyde (H2CO) Emissions during Wood-Based Panels Manufacturing

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
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Small Business Information
228 MIDWAY LN STE B, Oak Ridge, TN, 37830
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Edward Sobek
Chief Science Officer
(865) 813-1700
Business Contact:
Lyn Pope
Lab Manager
(865) 813-1700
Research Institution:
Formaldehyde (H2CO) has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 2004. Formaldehyde is the most important aldehyde produced commercially, and is used in the preparation of urea-formaldehyde and phenol-formaldehyde resins. One source of formaldehyde in homes, schools, and offices comes from furniture and cabinets manufactured from composite wood products such as particleboard (PB), medium density fiberboard (MDF), and hardwood plywood (HWPW). Composite wood products use urea formaldehyde (UF) based resins to bind fibers together. Formaldehyde in composites is significant enough that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently issued regulations to cap formaldehyde emissions from composite panels used in finished consumer products made from these panels. EPA has been petitioned to make the CARB standard into a federal regulation and is expected to publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this issue this fall. The EPA, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control have identified levels above 0.1 ppm, as a concern for exposure by sensitive populations. Existing standards and regulations (ANSI A208.1 and A208.2, HUD 24CFR3280.308) limit formaldehyde emissions for HWPW, PB, and MDF panels. However, formaldehyde levels in numerous FEMA trailers issued to hurricane Katrina victims greatly exceed the 0.1 ppm benchmark with some even exceeding the OSHA limit of 0.75 ppm, indicating that many high H2CO emitting products go undetected during manufacturing. As H2CO emission standards become more stringent (e.g., CARB regulations, potentially EPA), there is an urgent need for continuous monitoring of formaldehyde emissions during manufacture. Accurate on-line monitoring will allow manufacturers to gain tighter control of emission levels, reduce rejected lots, reduce claims, and improve profitability. Ultimately, real-time formaldehyde emissions monitoring will improve indoor air quality. Assured Biotechnology Corporation proposes to develop a continuous on-line monitoring system that will merge near infrared (NIR) measurements with plant process parameters to achieve high levels of prediction of H2CO. The objective of this Phase I research is to further evaluate an alpha-prototype real-time NIR spectroscopy hardware and software system to accurately detect H2CO emissions. Assured Biotechnology Corporation will use multivariate methods with the NIR spectroscopy data fused with critical process variable data to generate accurate calibration models. A commercial-ready system will be identified from Phase I results. A real-time H2CO on-line monitoring device will have great commercial potential with U.S. manufacturers and with foreign importers to the U.S. as CARB and other standards are enforced on imported products that emit H2CO.

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