Macadamia shells and agricultural waste re-formed into new products

15 September 2013
Composite Panel Materials for the Built Environment from Forestry and Food Industry by-products -2

Sustainable particle boards made from local agricultural and forestry by-products are providing a new way of looking at building materials, providing an opportunity to move away from toxic oil-based binders, and at the same time solving one of the biggest issues for particleboard industry by protecting it from moisture.

To put the Australian agricultural and forestry industry into perspective, on the world stage Australia is the main commercial producer of macadamia nuts, producing nearly half the global production of 100,000 tonnes. Australia has more than 100 million hectares of radiata pine trees, and we are the main eucalyptus producer globally.

Responding to the need for research around the waste produced as a by-product of this industry, research undertaken at the SMaRT Centre by PhD student Andrea Wechsler explores the use of the waste for production of new waste integrated novel (WIN) building materials, in particular particleboard.

The research focuses on ways to decrease the consumption of monocrops (pine wood) traditionally used in the production of panel board by replacing it with ground macadamia nut shells, pine cones and eucalyptus. The research also aims to solve one of the biggest problems for panel materials, the dimensional instability and swelling that particleboard suffers in high moisture environments – and at the same time replacing the oil-based binders that are loaded with formaldehydes.

This research was published in the journal Materials & Design

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