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Federal regulations expose biogenic formaldehyde

April 26, 2016 –  

By Chip Frazier

For decades the federal government has set limits for allowable formaldehyde emissions from nonstructural composite products like particleboard. The industry has repeatedly met those regulations with innovations in resin technology, the intended target for emissions regulation. However new emission limits are so low that now the industry must account for the natural, biogenic formaldehyde that trees produce. Consequently industry members of the Wood-Based Composites Center (WBC) have requested Professor Chip Frazier’s research group to improve the understanding of how wood produces formaldehyde, and how biogenic formaldehyde levels differ in various tree species. Leading the effort is Frazier’s student Guigui Wan, Ph.D. candidate in Macromolecular Science & Engineering, and helping last summer was George Lewis, senior in Materials Science Engineering. Guigui is studying how lignin forms formaldehyde; and George helped demonstrate that living trees contain biogenic formaldehyde and at vastly different levels among three different tree species ranging across North and South America. 


George Lewis and Guigui Wan sampling increment cores from a VT campus yellow-poplar tree. George Lewis and Guigui Wan sampling increment cores from a VT campus yellow-poplar tree.

The WBC is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center devoted to industry service for manufacturers of wood-based composites and for suppliers of the corresponding adhesives. WBC headquarters is at Virginia Tech and the Center includes Oregon State University, the University of Maine, the University of British Columbia, and North Carolina State University. Faculty at all universities conduct research requested and funded by industry members in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. (

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