Call for partners: More with Binderless

We are looking for owners of lignocellulosic side streams, extrusion and compression molding technology providers, and product manufacturers and wholesalers in the construction, interior building, furniture, packaging and horticultural products domain to make the Binderless technology ready for commercial use together.

Recent development of Binderless technology

Particle boards are raditionally manufactured through processes that consume extensive amounts of fossil-based, environmentally unfriendly and toxic binder chemicals. Alternatively, the intrinsic functionalities of lignocellulosic biomass can be utilized to produce high-density boards without the addition of chemical binders, using the so-called Binderless technology. Initially, this technology has been developed for a high-lignin coconut husk side stream. Hereto, the coconut husk is pressed at high temperature and high pressure, which ultimately yields a material with thermosetting properties and high-quality attributes, such as high strength, water resistance and fire retardancy.

Recently, a consortium of partners led by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, has been able to extend the Binderless technology to other, locally sourced, low-value side-streams, such as prunings of hard- and softwood origin. The fact that Northern European feedstocks can now be used to produce high-quality products as well, evidently contributes to making the technology more broadly applicable and expands the horizon for sourcing potentially suitable feedstocks.

To better understand the reactions the lignocellulosic biopolymers undergo during the Binderless technology, feedstocks and resulting products were analyzed in unprecedented detail by using sophisticated analytical methodologies. Not only did these analyses reveal that both hemicellulose and lignin are reactive and responsible for the final properties observed, they also allowed us do draw a hypothetical reaction cascade behind the in situ binder formation. This mechanistic insight now enables further process optimization, steering final product properties accordingly and utilizing a broader spectrum of lignocellulosic feedstocks, all contributing to bringing the Binderless technology to a commercially viable level.

Outlook for Binderless technology and proposal for ‘More with Binderless’ project

Based on the recent insights obtained, we anticipate that selecting specific feedstocks based on gross chemical composition and structural features of the biopolymers contained, will govern control over the Binderless products properties, and that ultimate properties can be steered by making clever mixtures of feedstocks. This simultaneously allows for the production of products with diverging properties, depending on the desired specification for the targeted applications, as well as converging different feedstocks into similar products.

Moreover, knowing the components responsible for the binder formation now enables educated optimization of the process with regard to pressure, temperature and processing time, especially when specific functional fractions of side-streams are utilized to increase reaction rates. This process optimization, together with iterative life-cycle and techno-economic analyses to meet market and value-chain specifications and requirements, will expedite the development of the Binderless concept into an economically feasible technology. Products envisaged go beyond 2D designed boards, include thin-walled 3D objects and could even include profiles formed through reactive extrusion.

Next to process development, final product property evaluation is key to bring the technology closer to reality and select application directions and markets. Besides being fully biobased, Binderless products are recognized for specific quality attributes, such as high strength, and improved water resistance and fire retardancy compared to particle board or fiber board benchmarks. Given the importance of long-term carbon sequestration, end-of-life options for Binderless products will be evaluated, surely considering the option to recycle the products upon milling and re-pressing, next to substituting a part of the fresh feedstock with recycled material.

We need your help to make Binderless impact

In summary, our recent achievements now call for further translation of the
technology into tangible applications and product development with great
attention for process optimization, economy and upscaling. We pursue to do
‘More with Binderless’ in a 4-year Public Private Partnership starting in 2024.
In return for 25 k€/y in-cash and 25 k€/y in-kind investment, industrial
partners will be given the opportunity to co-develop detailed project content
and join the steering committee during project execution. Partners receive an
immediate right to apply non-protectable foreground in their field, plus the
first right to license any protected IP in their field. We look forward to
collaborate with you to make ‘More with Binderless’ our joint ambition!