Most people can relate to baker’s yeast and what it can be used for. However, a recent feasibility study carried out by EcoBuild and RISE has shown there might be more areas of application to the yeast than previously thought.

The idea of fungal protein being used to produce glue has so far been unknown to the research community. However, a recently published study has shown successful results from trials with pre-treated baking yeast, which could lead to a breakthrough for bio-based adhesives. The research itself is a result from collaboration between RISE and the EcoBuild competence platform, focusing on research and innovation to develop bio-based materials and products for application within the building industry.

Stig Bardage, a senior researcher at RISE with a background as a biologist, and Magdalena Sterley, expert on wood adhesives, have studied various pretreatments of microorganisms found in baking yeast. With the pretreated biomass, some samples were glued, and the results were evaluated in an ABES equipment used to measure the force needed to pull apart a glue joint.

“We noted that a pretreated baking yeast was very strong, as strong as a urea formaldehyde binder,” says Stig Bardage.

The thought of replacing traditional formaldehyde-based adhesives with bio-based ones is intriguing but remains a challenge. New bio-based glues must be possible to produce and offer in large quantities and also at an equivalent price. This is, however, fully possible according to Stig.

“Basically, it is possible to ferment almost anything containing carbohydrates to produce fungal biomass, so the potential for large scale production / recycling is high. Today’s bioethanol factories, for example, also produce a waste that can be used to extract biomass. We have already tested yeast from a biorefinery, which today is regarded as pure waste. The yeast shows better glue properties than the baking yeast. Therefore, a glue product could be ready for commercialization sooner rather than later, provided we find the right partner.”

The challenge for the researchers now is to specify the scope and put together a value chain. The successful results will hopefully attract companies to a development project, which could lead to new bio-based glues in the near future.