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YPIE Scientist: Ian Cavalluzzi

Research: A Study of Wheat Paste as a Biodegradable Replacement for Polyvinyl Acetate Binder in Solid-Pressed Cardboard MDF Object

Awards: WESEF 2024 - Creative Approach to Research Award, WESEF 2024 - 2nd in Engineering, Greenlight 2023 - 1st Place, Greenlight 2024 - 3rd Place

Research Location: Yonkers


The everyday use of non-biodegradable items like plastic packaging and consumer goods raises environmental concerns. This research explores substituting Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA), an environmentally harmful binder with wheat paste, possibly cheaper and biodegradable binder. Packaging is a large contributor to waste, with 28.1% of all waste in 2018 being packaging and steadily increasing. In total 9.2 billion tons of plastic has been produced with only 9% of it being recycled, leaving 91% of all produced plastic to cause environmental issues. Cardboard MDF in a smaller scale is currently produced with PVA since the environmentally friendly option, urea-formaldehyde is toxic for humans to work with. Wheat paste could be a possible replacement, allowing non-industrial businesses to make environmentally friendly Cardboard MDF packaging.

Two sets of samples were made with varying amounts of binder which scaled from 0 to 30mL in 6mL increments. One set was made using polyvinyl acetate (PVA) which can be typically found in school glue. The second set was made using wheat paste which was formulated purely by using 16 parts water to 3 parts wheat flour. The samples were measured for their physical dimensions, and then had their tensile strength tested using a digital force meter pulling on a section of material suspended off an edge.

Both the polyvinyl alcohol and wheat paste sets displayed an increase in strength as the amount of binder increased. On average, each increase of 6mL of PVA would increase the strength of the material by 14.52%. On average, a step-up of 6mL of wheat paste would result in a 9.19% increase in the material strength. While both binders had an increase, PVA had an increase of roughly 5% more. This slight difference is attributed to the concentration difference of PVA and wheat paste. PVA is much more concentrated than wheat paste due to its lower water content, but since wheat paste is low cost, additional binder could be added to make the MDF stronger with wheat paste than PVA while still being cheaper. These results indicate that wheat paste is a binder strong enough to be a sufficient replacement for PVA in cardboard MDF products.

About this Scientist:

Ian Cavalluzzi is currently a junior at Riverside High school. He enjoys working on engineering projects and tying them into science research or robotics. After his senior year he plans on enrolling in college for computer engineering or mechatronics.

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