The glue and adhesive industry sometimes get a bad name for using too many chemicals. At the same time, this is an expanding market where savvy consumers are getting more and more concerned with environmental issues.
As a consequence, the glue and adhesive industry is trying to catch up fast with environmental laws and trends, in a quest for greener and more effective adhesive products.
- The present: low VOC and HAP free adhesive products
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) have been getting a very bad name and rightly so for being held responsible for part of the air pollution, especially indoors, where up to ten times the amount of VOC can be found.
These types of air pollutants are suspected or known to cause serious health ill-effects, such as cancer and are widely used in the making of industrial and household products such as paint, varnishes and adhesives – pretty much anything solvent-based.
To reduce the overall exposure and increased usage of such harmful substances in the industry, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was set up in the early 1970s to control such industrial and commercial sources of toxic.
In reports dating back to 1997, the US EPA points out that HAP-free industrial adhesives in particular, while complying with the regulation, are not as effective as HAP-based products. However this has changed a lot in recent years, as most of the industry is committing to producing more environmentally friendly alternatives, with the commercialisation of HAP-free fabric spray adhesives. Solvent-free glues and sealants now more of than not retain their original sticky properties.
- What the future holds: bioadhesives
Bioadhesives (adhesives made of polymers based on naturally occurring polymers) have been on the rise in recent years and are tipped to replace all synthetic products in the near future.
An American researcher, Jonathan Wilker, also a professor of chemistry and materials engineering at Purdue University, has recently developed a revolutionary new adhesive prototype inspired by mussels. Its entire research was published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal at the end of last year.
Mussels produce a protein-based substance to help them adhere to rocks underwater
This technology can also work underwater and has tremendous potential in the surgical and aeronautic sectors especially.
By swapping proteins for simple polymers and retaining its other adhesive properties, this new product will soon be produced on a larger industrial scale. Toxic-free, it will have a great advantage put up against the traditional underwater adhesive contenders and can be produced using renewable sources. This is the kind of product that will likely push the industry towards more sustainable manufacturing.