MSU licenses two kenaf patents to Texas company

Thursday, February 24, 2011
By: Bonnie Coblentz

Two Mississippi State University patents on kenaf have been licensed to Texas-based Corn Board Manufacturing, Inc. for use in engineered pressed board.


In early January, CBMI licensed an MSU patent for the production of kenaf core board and an MSU patent for a machine that separates the kenaf material. Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and Forestry and Wildlife Research Center researchers spent about 12 years studying the commercial usefulness of kenaf fibers. Among the results of this research were three patents, a book on kenaf processing and properties, and genetic work that resulted in a new kenaf variety.

Kenaf is a fibrous plant somewhat similar to bamboo that grows as tall as 10 feet and has a woody base up to about 4 inches across.

Chase Kasper, interim director of MSU's Office of Technology Commercialization, said the company intends to include kenaf fiber in their pressed board products.

"CBMI is looking to blend kenaf into their board products, to achieve the combination of flexibility, rigidity and durability required for the products they are making," Kasper said. "We're excited about their capabilities and potential product offerings which might incorporate kenaf. This creates a good opportunity for CBMI to enhance and diversify their product offerings."

The machine MSU developed and patented separates the coarse fiber in the outer layer from the finer fiber in the core of the stem. The fiber from kenaf is versatile and has been used in rope, coarse cloth, paper, engineered wood, animal bedding, packing material and oil and liquid absorbers.

Lane Segerstrom, CEO of Corn Board Manufacturing, Inc., said the company specializes in engineering and manufacturing nonwood pressed board materials engineered for specific uses.

The company can produce material for thousands of consumer product applications, and it licensed the MSU technology to take advantage of kenaf's potential.

"Kenaf is a relatively unknown and underutilized biomass material that we believe has excellent properties and potential as a wood replacement technology," Segerstrom said. "We will integrate kenaf and kenaf board into our existing products and seek to develop new products that utilize its unique properties."

CBMI has an upcoming line of snowboards and skis, and Segerstrom said kenaf offers a flexibility the company intends to integrate into these products.

"We are able to engineer pressed board products specific to each end product use," Segerstrom said. "This offers us limitless possibilities in the design and manufacture of new products using our nonwood pressed board."

In addition to gaining use of two MSU patents, CBMI licensed a patented technology from the University of Illinois that is complementary to kenaf board.

"We recognize the importance of having established and progressive technology partners like the ones we have found with Mississippi State University and the University of Illinois," Segerstrom said. "CBMI looks forward to expanding our relationships with both institutions in the future."

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