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Plywood is widely used in construction such as for flooring and interior walls, as well as in the manufacture of household items such as furniture and cabinets. Such items are made of wood veneers that are bonded together with adhesives such as urea-formaldehyde (UF) and phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resins1,2. Researchers in academia and industry have long aimed to synthesize lignin-phenol-formaldehyde (LPF) resin adhesives using biomass-derived lignin, a phenolic polymer that can be used to substitute the petroleum-derived phenol3-6. However, LPF resin adhesives are less attractive to plywood manufacturers than UF and PF resins due to their appearance and cost. Here we report a simple and practical strategy for preparing lignin-based wood adhesives from lignocellulosic biomass. Our strategy involves separation of uncondensed or slightly condensed lignins from biomass followed by directly applying a suspension of the lignin and water as an adhesive on wood veneers. Plywood products with superior performances could be prepared with such lignin adhesives at a wide range of hot-pressing temperatures, enabling the adhesives highly promising alternatives to traditional wood adhesives in different market segments. Mechanistic studies indicate that the adhesion mechanism of such lignin adhesives may involve softening of lignin by water, filling of vessels with softened lignin, and crosslinking of lignins in adhesives with those in cell wall.

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