Mississippi State University scientists strive to establish sustainable best practices in the application of slack wax for the wood composites industry.
Slack wax is a waterproofing agent used in the production of composites, including particle board, oriented strand board, fiberboard and laminated strained lumber. The wax improves the dimensional stability of composites, thus improving performance.
A critical challenge of the application process is applying the least amount of wax necessary in the most uniform manner to minimize cost, maximize product performance and reduce the carbon footprint. MSU scientists in the Forest and Wildlife Research Center are developing a wax spray system they hope will address this challenge.
"We hope this research will optimize the slack wax application process, resulting in a superior product that costs less and is better for the environment," said Rubin Shmulsky, head of the MSU Department of Sustainable Bioproducts.
Scientists are seeking industry partners to participate in the research.
"Including industry stakeholders in the research process helps ensure that what happens in the laboratory can be applied to the mill," Shmulsky said. "The industry is the ultimate proving ground for any technology. If this is something the industry is able to adopt, the economic value and ecological impact will be significant."
Hui Wan, associate professor in the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, who is leading the research, described how the system is unique.
"While the composites industry has used slack wax for decades, there hasn't been a lot of research on how to optimize its application," Wan said. "We are hoping to develop best practices from a sustainable manufacturing perspective."
Thus far, the research indicates that increased distance and pressure contribute to greater wax loss while increased temperature results in less wax loss.
The initial research shows tremendous promise for the composites industry, and Wan hopes to see the research applied across other sectors as well.
"The recycled plastics industry could possibly benefit from this," Wan said. "As we develop these best practices, the system can be adapted for plastic that has been converted to wax. Once this happens, we've closed the loop from a sustainability standpoint, substantially reducing the carbon footprint of slack wax production."
Composites industry experts interested in participating in the research should contact Wan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-325-0214.