Periodic Reporting for period 1 - POLYWOOD (Combining wood and polymers to produce a translucent, reinforced and ecological material)
Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31
However, wood utilisation declines over the years as it has four strong limitations: it burns, it rots, it has a limited structural resistance and durability, and it is opaque. However, wood covers 40% of the EU land and has a natural increase rate of 0.4% per year, hence a large potential to reveal. Wood has a crucial role to play in the years to come as it is the only renewable building material which grows on its own, able to store CO2 (1 ton of CO2/m3 of wood) unlike most man-made materials, and widely available locally, and throughout the EU.
WOODOO has developed a breakthrough technology (patented process B150222FRA), based on the structural modification of wood at the cellular and molecular scales, to overcome all these major limitations while ensuring a sustainable built environment based on resource-efficient systems with low environmental impact. The process consists in removing lignin from native wood and then filling the cellulosic matrix with bio-based polymers. By polymerizing in- situ, much stronger bonds between wood fibers are created, improving native wood’s mechanical performance, while keeping competitive environmental performance and enhancing its resistance to decay (fire, fungi, insects), as well as making it translucent. Despite its slightly higher use of fossil energy compared to bulk wood products, WOODOO energy consumption process remains highly attractive compared to non-wood building materials. The resulting translucent wood is as stiff as concrete but with a carbon footprint 3 times lower.
In the frame of EASME Horizon 2020, the project POLYWOOD is to develop wood composite where the structural integrity of the wood is retained, which confer novel properties to the wood such as increase wood stiffness and wood resistance to decay. The first step of the process of translucent wood is the delignification. The lignin removal is important for the optical properties of the wood composite. The free volume created between the fibres will allow to improve the interface between the cellulose fibrils and the polymer matrix. Two major families of polymers can be distinguished: thermoset and thermoplastic.
Three objectives were defined for the POLYWOOD project, and the associate: 1) optimize the delignification process, 2) identify polymers that would meet the specifications for the impregnation stage, and optimize its processing into the delignified wood, 3) contribute to prototyping for clients.
The project ends now, and the expected results have been obtained and are the ones stated above: process optimization which now enables us to move to industrialization phase, identification of the best thermoplastic resin for the desired applications, hence enabling Woodoo to produce first high quality prototypes to clients in the luxury and automotive business.
The optimization of the delignification as well as the impregnation enables the process to be greener, as it consumes less chemicals and energy in general. The POLYWOOD project has thus enabled us to optimize the process hence getting us one step closer to meeting the environmental objectives stated in the first paragraph above. Furthermore, by triggering wood as raw material to deliver to the market a ready-to-use biocomposite (translucent wood) and natural side-product (lignin), WOODOO technology can be seen as a 2nd generation biorefinery. This relies on two strong features:
1. Upgrading low-grade timbers (wood from the thinning operations ...) or low-use timber (such as aspen, pine, poplar,...) bought for a very low price and then upgraded into high- or higher- added value products, making it both ecological and economical. Moderate climate native wood species performs much better towards Woodoo process than tropical woods, which are therefore not considered in its development ;
2. Selling lignin as biofuel or bio-building blocks for the chemical industry reduces the unitary production costs, in a virtuous, cradle-to-cradle process design.