DOST, MSU-IIT use green technology to produce insulation, packing foam materials from waste

Researchers from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) was able to convert plant-based raw materials and its waste by-products into valuable and renewable polyols and polyurethanes (PU) that can be used for commercial production of coatings, insulation, and packing foam materials.
This sophisticated green technology of Dr. Arnold A. Lubguban and his team at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology’s (MSU-IIT) BioProducts Research Laboratories (BPRL) was developed in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD). The innovation uses renewable feedstock to produce highly functional polyols and PU-based bioproducts for commercial applications such as rigid insulation foams, semi-flexible packaging foam materials, and waterborne anti-corrosive coatings.
The project had partner industries that provided support that include Chemrez Technologies, Inc. and Nuevochem Specialties, Inc.
“One of our innovations provides baseline data and methods for the commercialization of biomass-based polyols (Phase 1) and polyurethane foam insulation sheets (Phase 2) through an environmentally friendly process that is also characterized by reduced production costs because the raw materials are readily available by-products or waste products,” said Lubguban.
DOST-PCIEERD executive director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit underscored the council’s pivotal role of becoming a good corporate neighbor and a responsible steward by providing innovative solutions that will preserve and sustain our natural resources for future generations.
“Our main goal is to fully harness the potentials of science, technology, and innovation and constantly improve what is essential to the lives of those we serve,” Paringit remarked. “We will constantly provide new opportunities and invest in more efficient and environmentally sustainable greener technologies to build a more livable community,” he continued.
This year the project team will focus on the pilot scaling and optimization of their bio-based polyols to about 40 liters for PU insulation, coatings and packing applications. Once successful, this innovation will definitely give valuable contribution to various industries and at the same time benefit the environment at large for more sustainable initiatives.
The “Production of Bio-Based Polyols and Polyurethanes for Industrial Applications,” is a 36-month program with two (2) project components that are aimed at developing bio-based polyols and PUs from renewable resources. For more information,
please contact Dr. Arnold A. Lubguban at  or check out their Facebook page (

Project staff performing optimization experiments on the production of rigid foams.

DOST-FPRDI champions earth-friendly technologies Because of its name, the Department of Science and Technology’s Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) – is sometimes misunderstood as being anti-environment. Some people think that the agency’s mandate promotes deforestation, the alleged culprit behind the devastating floods that hit the country in 2020.

It is not true, of course, that the Institute endorses deforestation. While it did study premium timber and catered to the needs of the forest-using industries during its earlier years, it began in the 1980s to study other related natural products. As the country’s wood supply began to dwindle due to reckless logging, the agency had to look for substitute raw materials for its clients in the housing, pulp and paper, handicrafts and furniture sectors.

Substitute raw materials

Thus, over the next decades, DOST-FPRDI researchers have probed all kinds of possible replacement to forest timber. These include bamboo; industrial tree plantation species (ITPS); senile coconut wood and rubber wood; abaca; and agricultural residues such as coconut coir, tobacco stalks, tea leaves, corn stalk and rice straw. They have also studied fiber plants, dye plants, forest woody vines, as well as tree gums, resins, oils and exudates, among others.

“Because of our name, our work has sometimes been misunderstood by the public, and even by policy makers,” says Institute Director Romulo T. Aggangan. “During Senate Budget Hearings, some lawmakers would ask about the relevance of what we do, considering that the country has very little forest cover left, and these have already been made off-limits to all kinds of logging. We then have to explain to them what we do and what we have done so far.”

Tree plantation species, lumber dryer, moisture meter

Over the years, DOST-FPRDI wood anatomists, chemists, and forest products engineers have studied the properties and uses of 15 kinds of industrial tree plantation species (ITPS), such as falcata and gmelina. Because of this, many managers in the wood-based industries now understand how to saw, machine, dry, finish, and treat these non-forest raw materials. Fast-cycle trees grown in plantations are good substitutes to forest timber for construction and many other industrial uses.Another contribution is the furnace-type lumber dryer (FTLD). Explains Aggangan, “This is like a big oven which can dry natural raw materials fast and right, resulting in quality wooden furniture which don’t shrink or crack, and handicrafts which are not attacked by molds.
In 2018, Connor Group, one of the world’s top merchandise-sourcing firms hailed the Institute for its role in raising the quality of Philippine handicraft exports thru the FTLD.
“Another helpful technology is the low-cost wood moisture meter which helps our clients know how much water a piece wood contains. This is important to ensure the quality finished product,” says Aggangan.
Recent accomplishments
In recent years, the Institute has trained countless aspiring business people on handmade papermaking,   innovated wine barrels from tree plantation species, and developed machines for making engineered bamboo, one of the promising housing materials in the country today. It has also set up a state-of-the-art processing plant for converting old and unproductive rubberwood into quality furniture – a big help to rubber farmers in Zamboanga Sibugay.
At present, it is studying how to optimize the abaca fiber for making high-end industrial products, how to upgrade our bamboo musical instruments, how to make the most of forest woody vines as handicraft raw materials, among others, and how to develop fragrances and flavors from forest products.
DOST-FPRDI likewise runs world class testing laboratories for furniture, plywood, pulp and paper, and also conducts wood identification, physical and mechanical properties, and biomass energy tests on forest-based and related products.
“Come to think of it, our name is a misnomer,” says Aggangan. “It doesn’t exactly reflect who we are, because we do so much more than study ‘forest products’. We do not study forest timber anymore, but instead look for ways to wisely use many native plants and related natural materials to meet our clients’ needs. Much of what we do shows our aim to help protect – and not destroy – the planet.”
For example, he explains, in its bamboo projects, the Institute not only supports the bamboo-based industry, it also promotes bamboo farming. Putting up more plantations worldwide can help stabilize the earth’s climate by limiting the effects of global warming. More than any other plant, it can absorb massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere which is a major cause of global warming.
“The same is true with tree plantation species,” he adds. “As we do more studies on them, we promote the setting up of more tree farms and the use of products harvested from them, which are known to be effective carbon absorbers.”
In their current projects, Aggangan adds, DOST-FPRDI researchers are looking for more earth-friendly ways of doing things – for example, more energy-efficient sawmilling, drying and machining methods, and less toxic methods of preserving wood.
“In the coming years,” ends Aggangan, “we will continue to work towards the competitiveness of our client industries while promoting sustainability. These two things – competitiveness and sustainability – should always go together. No matter how fantastic, scientific innovations will mean nothing if they damage the environment.” ### (Rizalina K. Araral)

DOST-FPRDI’s studies on tree plantation species promotes the establishment of tree farms and the use of products harvested from them. Properly harvested and processed, wood products help limit the effects of global warming as they are known to be effective carbon absorbers. They can help trap excessive carbon from the atmosphere which is a major cause of climate change.

DOST-FPRDI, DENR-FMB to develop mobile app
for automated wood identification
 Have you ever wondered what tree species your wooden furniture is made of?

Soon, your curiosity will be satisfied and you will be able to easily identify a piece of wood by just using your smartphone. This will be made possible through a mobile app being developed by the DOST- Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) and DENR-Forest Management Bureau (DENR-FMB). This joint project by the two agencies aims to quickly and accurately identify selected wood species through a Wood Identification Mobile Phone Application using Android OS.

According to DOST-FPRDI’s For. Mario DR. Ramos, the project will use XyloTron, a machine-vision-based wood identification system developed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory. XyloTron uses image analysis, statistical processing software and the wood imaging device Xyloscope in capturing and analyzing the wood’s cross section.

“The project goal is to make sure all locally traded timber and timber products are correctly identified. Through the mobile app, a person can verify whether a piece of lumber is legally sourced or not,” explained Ramos.

With this technology, both the government and the wood industry will greatly benefit in terms of monitoring illegally sourced lumber and in the long run can help in forest conservation.

“The app will identify initially 30 commercially traded wood species in the Philippines, which include endemic, exotic and imported trees. As it can be used offline, the app is reliable even if the user is off-the-grid,” he added.

For decades now, DOST-FPRDI’s wood identification service has been an important part of the government’s campaign against unlawful logging. Executive Order No. 23 strictly prohibits logging in all natural and second-growth forests, but allows the harvesting of trees grown in industrial plantations.

Upon DENR’s request, the Institute’s experts conducted on-site and off-site identification of confiscated wood, and submitted reports which served as legal evidence against the violators.

The mobile app project is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under its European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade
(EU-FLEGT) Programme and is expected to be completed by June 2021. (Apple Jean C. Martin- de Leon)