Jan 09, 2022
This is a broken world.
Our constructed environment, life on land and under water, as well as humanity’s health and wellbeing are damaged, polluted and threatened by man-made, oil-based materials. Billion tonnes of plastic waste, which has not been well managed to recycle and reuse, is dumped into our ocean. One third of our food is wasted and about USD $1trillion of valuable natural resources cannot be reversed. All of these end up contributing to greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming.
The construction sector contributes about 20% of CO2 in total carbon emissions across sectors. The building materials used are not always green. Although the USD$500 billion wood panel industry is working on improving eco-standards through the utilisation of renewable biomass that has less dependence on trees, 20% of the material is made up of resin to bind all the chips, fibres, and wood particles together, which is mainly oil-based containing toxic, cancer-causing formaldehyde. The wood panel industry is seeking alternatives to replace formaldehyde-based resin and have been attempting to reduce its emissions, but it is hard to find a good solution since this industry has been dominated by this resin for as long as 50 years. It seems one of the few actions we can take now is to set standards in across countries to limit the emission of formaldehyde to our living environment. Yet, most customers still purchase furniture made from formaldehyde-based resin in which the formaldehyde can be released over a period of 10 years.
If we can build our house using furniture, decor and flooring made with a bio-based glue together with renewable biomass without any toxic chemicals and manufactured at an affordable price, we would not need to worry about the emission of volatile organic chemical (VOC) or have concerns about the end of product life as it is all natural and biodegradable. That would create a green building environment for us all to live in. We, at CAMBOND, have spent almost 7 years in developing a technology platform to manufacture low-carbon, bio-degradable, bio-adhesive materials, with the aim of solving this critical problem in the wood panel industry. We have also explored many other applications in polymer in liquid formulations (PLFs) that all in all have resulted in USD$125 billion of sales every year.
Our solution is to use plant-based biomass that contains protein, such as algae, a brewing industry by-product, and bioethanol by-product, distiller’s grain and solubles (DDGS) to mimic how the human body is bound by tissues and collagen protein to support our bodily movement. As all of the raw materials are abundant and renewable, we have been able to scale its production.
In the past 7 years, we have found broad applications to this sustainable solution. For instance, the bio-adhesive has been used to replace formaldehyde resin to make MDF and save 40% of CO2 emissions. This bioadhesive has also proved beneficial in producing a type of bioplastic used to make home-ware products that reduce the use of actual plastic. We have made re-usable coffee cups from spent coffee ground, beer cups made from beer spent grain, etc. We also produce pallets using our resin together with agricultural waste to make 100% bio-degradable pallets for packaging and shipping.
Having secured patents in China, the US and the EU, as well as investment and development from cross-sector institutions like CKGSB’s China Start Program—tailored for entrepreneurs seeking investment or business growth in China—and Lim Shrimp Organization, that has supported us to establish a facility in Ely, UK, we are confident we can continue to develop and deploy innovative solutions that contribute towards addressing humanity’s environmental crisis.
By Zhao Xiaobin, Co-Founder and CEO of Cambond
Dr Xiaobin Zhao. Founder, Director and CEO for Cambond. He obtained his BSc in Polymer Chemistry and MSc in Biomaterial Science in Nanjing University, China and a PhD in Bioengineering Unit at the University of Strathclyde. He has been working in the UK biomaterial industry since 1998. Dr Zhao is an inventor and has successfully commercialised more than 10 products world-wide. He is a UK Chartered Chemist and a Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC), Fellow of Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (FIMMM) in the UK and Society for Biomaterial in the USA. He has published more than 60 scientific papers, book chapters and gained more than 30 patents worldwide. He holds visiting professorship in the University of Strathclyde and visiting professorship in both Changzhou and Lanzhou University in China.