CORVALLIS, OR -- Wood science researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have developed new wood-plastic composites that they say are stronger and less expensive than any similar products now available.

Kaichang Li, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Wood Science and Engineering, said, “Composite products made from wood and plastic are highly desirable for their low maintenance and ability to resist rot. But their use has been limited because of high cost and low strength, a result of inadequate adhesion between the wood fibers and plastic.”

The new wood-plastic composites are made in Li’s laboratory using a new technology for mixing wood and thermoplastics such as nylons, in which the melting temperature of the plastic is higher than the wood degradation temperature. With this approach, old carpet fibers now going to landfills could be recycled into wood-plastic composites.

ENTEK, a Lebanon, OR, firm that manufactures extruders for bio-based composites is contributing a $180,000 extruder to OSU to conduct large-scale testing of the new material. The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute has provided support to get the new equipment installed, which also has the capability to produce nanocomposite materials.

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