Revolutionizing construction materials

samples of particleboard and other construction materials made with nanocellulose
Nanocellulose offers a range of potential applications in construction and building materials.

Nanocellulose has emerged as a valuable addition to construction and building materials, contributing to improved strength and environmental benefits in a host of products.

One example is particle board bound with cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) rather than a formaldehyde-containing synthetic resin. The product made with CNF tests higher for fracture toughness and sequesters carbon and oxygen for its life span — typically decades. Eliminating the use of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, erases concerns about potentially harmful off-gassing in a product used widely in furniture and countertops.

UMaine holds a patent for the process to make particle board with CNF, and a similar process could be used to create composite fiber board for insulation and other composite wood products; lighter, stronger alternatives to traditional drywall; binders for paint that would reduce the need for petroleum-based binders and more.

UMaine researchers are exploring these and other possibilities along with public and private partners. Work led by Dr. Mehdi Tajvidi involves collaborations with several companies on products, including a scratch-, fire- and water-resistant flooring system made of CNF and cement. Tajvidi also is developing nanocellulose construction technology as part of P3Nano, a public-private partnership founded by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the U.S. Forest Service.