By Michael Connolly, WIR Contributor

The AgCenter at Louisiana State University (LSU) has recently received a $250,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to research the potential of using wood residues to create a biomass insulation spray.

foam insulation

Scientists will determine if wood can be used to create an effective foam insulation capable of outperforming current products offered to consumers. Worker Blowingr Polyurethane Foam. (Image via ThinkStock)

The potential benefits of such a technology would be a wonderful addition to any Green Home or Green Building. The uses of wood seem endless as more and more research is funded in part of the Innovative Uses of Wood program, sponsored by the USDA.

This year the UDSA has awarded $31 million in grant money to various research projects around the country. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack said in a press release, the grants “promot(e) deployment of new technologies, designed to support new market opportunities for wood energy and innovative wood building materials”.

The idea of using wood as an insulator for buildings in not a new one, wood has been known for years to be a great insulator. Three years ago, Germany created wood insulation boards that did not shed fibers, a problem with the older technology. The boards and mats they produced were fairly stiff and due to the production process had to be predetermined shapes and sizes. The project at LSU aims to research the potential of creating a foam spray that can be used in existing buildings.

Possible Benefits from Wood Insulation

Energy Savings – There is a strong possibility to save energy. Whether financial savings are realized in electric bills or not, the production of a wood based product will most likely require less energy to produce than the current petroleum-based insulation we used now.

indoor thermometer

The idea of using wood as an insulator for buildings in not a new one, wood has been known for years to be a great insulator. (Image from Fanton)

Cost Savings – Wood is a wonderful renewable American resource, especially Southern Yellow Pine. There is no need to mine it. It grows from a little seed into a giant tree in 17 years using the energy from the sun.

Environmentally Friendly – As a biomass, wood naturally decomposes and can be used as a fuel source or repurposed. Plastic and other petroleum-based products are not as ecofriendly.

New Market for American Wood – The USDA spent $31 million in grant money, partly to support new market opportunities for wood building materials. A possible benefit from the creation of wood foam insulation spray would the popularity the product and a lower price point than currently used insulation.

tree farm

America’s greatest renewable resource, Southern Yellow Pine. (Image from W. Cook)


Todd Shupe, a professor at the LSU AgCenter commented about the research. “The main goal of the project is to determine the potential of low-value wood fiber as a raw material for the development of a green spray foam insulation… Consumers are demanding green products for their houses, but insulation is one product that is currently not very green.”

Current spray foams contain zero to 30 percent biomass, he said. “We would like to increase the percentage of biomass in spray foam, and we want that biomass to be from forest fuel reduction programs.”

The complete list of grant recipients can be viewed here.