NIFA Grantee Gets the Golden Goose

Friday, September 29, 2017
What do mussels, soy, kitchen cabinets, and golden geese have in common? Just ask Oregon State University (OSU) wood chemist Kaichang Li. Since his days as an organic chemistry graduate student, Lee was interested in reducing the need for hazardous solvents. One day, Li was out crabbing at the beach, and noticed how mussels clung tightly to rough, unwashed surfaces. In 2001, Li received a NIFA grant to develop a soy-based wood glue that could mimic the marine adhesive proteins found in the tenacious mussels.  

Li filed a patent for his mussel-inspired wood adhesive. Around the same time, Columbia Forest Products (CFP) was looking for an alternative to wood adhesives based on formaldehyde, which is hazardous to human health. In 2003, CFP approached Li to develop a commercially viable glue. Within two years, the company planned to convert all its plants to use the soy-based glue instead of formaldehyde-based adhesives. For more than a decade, CFP had been formaldehyde-free and much of the industry has followed its lead.

In September, Li received a 2017 Golden Goose Award for creating a safer glue for plywood. The Golden Goose Award honors scientists whose federally funded work may have been considered odd or obscure when first conducted, but has resulted in significant benefits to society.

Read more about Li’s Golden Goose Award on the OSU website.

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