Chip-based particleboards today have an average density of up to 700 kg/m3. Due to the rising price of raw materials and the growing demand for flat-pack furniture, manufacturers are trying to make panel materials significantly lighter in weight. Research work is focusing on new, cost-efficient production processes for sandwich panels with wood chip based top layers. Previous research has already shown that the procedure is feasible and the product quality is good. Further research is needed particularly in the development of a free-flowing foam precursor, i.e. a forerunner material for the production of foam that is cheap and meets the technical requirements for the process.
The researchers aim to achieve two goals in this project: firstly, to develop a foam system that satisfies the high ecological, technological and economic requirements; secondly, to adapt the procedure for the production of particleboards. For foam development, the focus is on the use of super-critical CO2 (carbon dioxide at the liquid-gas phase boundary) for making a foam precursor, which is a bioplastic from the group of polylactides (PLAs). In parallel, the researchers are also studying the potential of alternative basic materials and propellants. They are also expanding the (normally very narrow) temperature range for the compression of the top layers in order to have more leeway when choosing the foam system.
Light panel materials have great potential in the furniture sector, in interior design and as packaging material. Above 20 mm, honeycomb panels now offer a cheap alternative to chipboard. However, there is still a lack of light materials of standard strength for furniture panels. Bio-based lightweight boards could secure the long-term competitiveness of wood and wood products.