When Lane Segerstrom heard that three professors at the University of Illinois had developed a corn-based structural composite technology, he was intrigued. He grew up on a farm in Iowa and has been inventing and taking products to the marketplace for 10 years. He instantly recognized the huge opportunity, called the University and secured an exclusive licensing agreement to make and commercialize products out of pressed corn board, a product he dubbed CornBoard.
“The potential is mind-boggling,” says Segerstrom, founder and CEO of CornBoard Manufacturing Inc. (CBMI), headquartered in McKinney, Texas. “The supply of corn by-products is endless and renewable every year, and we have a consumer that is ready and willing as long as the price and the quality is there.” While Segerstrom doesn’t think CornBoard is going to replace wood or pressed wood, he is positive it can help reduce additional demand and preserve the resource of wood as the world’s population increases.
CornBoard is made from corn stover, the biomass normally left in the field after the commercial harvest of corn crops. The stalks, leaves and husks are combined with a resin and bonded under heat and pressure to create CornBoard – comparable to engineered wood. “We can make a board that is stronger than a conventional oriented strand board, without getting too stiff, or too dense or heavy,” Segerstrom says, prefacing that CBMI is very much in the beginning stages and is currently working with the University of Illinois on getting the data and documentation to prove the material’s properties. Right now, they are using the leaves and the husk of the corn and pressing it into a non-formaldehyde resin.
StalkIt longboards and potential future CornBoard products
The first commercial product CornBoard Manufacturing, Inc. launched was the StalkIt longboard. Segerstrom started with this piece of sports gear to demonstrate the strength and versatility of the new biomass composite material. “We wanted people to say, ‘if you can make a skateboard than I’d probably be pretty good in a chair or a piece of furniture and ultimately in building materials,’” he explains. The high-performance skateboards have a 100-percent CornBoard core laminated between a top and bottom layer of ash and poplar vertical. An aluminum strip connecting the front and rear trucks helps reduce vibration at high speed. “The combination of these materials working together makes for a strong, rigid and lighter weight board than traditional longboards,” says Segerstrom, who himself is an avid skateboarder.