University of Canterbury, New Zealand, prepares to commercialize building material made with radiata pine sawdust, recycled plastic; lead professor on eight-year project says product could completely eliminate use of chemically-treated timber

CANTERBURY, New Zealand , June 27, 2012 (press release) – Living in chemical-free homes made from sawdust and recycled plastic is a giant step closer thanks to some clever research carried out at the University of Canterbury.

The research, led by UC’s Professor Shusheng Pang (Chemical and Process Engineering), has been eight years in the making. It has involved UC academics and students, as well as representatives from Scion (a Crown Research Institute), AgResearch (a specialist research organisation) and Mastaguard (a product supply company). More than $1m worth of government funding has been pumped into the research project.

Right now, it’s on the cusp of commercialisation, a process that turns research findings into a product that can be bought and sold nationally and overseas.

Professor Pang’s team has come up with a way to combine radiata pine sawdust with recycled plastic to make an innovative building product known as a wood plastic composite.

Their research could completely eliminate the need to use chemically-treated timber – a ubiquitous building product prone to decay and known to pollute the environment and cause harm to people.

“We’ve spent years testing different product recipes to see how they’d stand up to immersion in water and prolonged exposure to natural weather conditions such as sun, wind and frost. The results are very promising and we’re confident we’ve got something ideal for the building industry.

“We’ve also worked out the best way to mix and process the product Now we want to bring our product to market so Kiwis can reduce the chemicals they use to build their homes.

“At the same time, we’ve discovered a practical use for the plastic clogging up our landfills. It’s very much a win-win solution,” says Professor Pang.

SOURCE: University of Canterbury

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