Greetings from the SuperBark Project Coordinator

Marc Borrega, Coordinator of the SuperBark project
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
You probably know that forest industries produce a wide range of consumer products that we utilize daily, from printing paper and packaging board to wood-based panels in our homes.

But you may not be aware that many of these products contain adhesives or coatings that are formulated with fossil-based chemicals, some of which are very harmful to our health and to the environment. Therefore, there is an increasing need to find safer and more sustainable alternatives that still meet the performance requirements of industry and consumers.

One option is to look at bark, an abundant side-stream from forest industries produced during the debarking of wood logs. Bark contains natural chemical components that can be exploited as replacement of several fossil and harmful chemicals currently used in material and product formulations.  

The main goal of SuperBark is to develop safe, sustainable, and functional adhesives and coatings for wood panels and packaging paper using softwood bark as raw material.

For this, we first apply an alkaline treatment to spruce and pine bark to extract tannins and other polyphenolic compounds. The polyphenols are then utilized in the formulation of adhesives with ≥ 95% bio-based content for plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard. The bark residue after alkaline extraction is further processed to produce bark-based nanocellulose, which is exploited (together with the polyphenols) as coating component for plywood and packaging paper. The development of adhesives and coatings follows Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD) principles, and the end products are designed for recyclability and/or biodegradability at the end of their service life. 

The SuperBark project, funded by the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking, kicked-off in September 2023. Currently in its 8th month, the work is going at full speed thanks to the dedication and commitment of all project partners. Polyphenols from spruce bark and bark-based nanocellulose have already been produced and delivered to partners, which are now busy with developing the adhesive and coatings formulations following the SSbD principles.

I hope that you will enjoy following our journey, and please contact us if you have any comments or suggestions or, simply want to know more about the project. 

About the Author

Marc Borrega, originally from Spain, now resides in Finland and works as a senior scientist and project manager at VTT. As project coordinator for SuperBark, he facilitates collaboration, monitors project progress, and represents the consortium. His work includes extracting polyphenols from bark, formulating bio-based adhesives, producing nanocellulose, and assessing the extraction process economically. His research background aligns with SuperBark’s aim to refine industrial bark into chemical components for bio-based products.