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The cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale L., is native to northeast Brazil. Portuguese traders, however, introduced this small evergreen to coastal India and Africa as a means to prevent soil erosion. Today, the cashew tree is found in many equatorial countries, some of the largest being Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Brazil.

The cashew tree has a lot to offer: a false fruit (apple) high in vitamin C (ca. 200 mg / 100 mL juice), a tasty seed (nut) and a honeycomb shell that holds significant quantities of anacardic acids and meta-substituted phenols and resorcinols. Upon processing and extraction, the anacardic acids are decarboxylated, creating “cardanol”, the principal component in commercially available Cashew Nutshell Liquid, or CNSL.

In the 1920s, then Columbia student, Mortimer Harvey, began developing resins derived from the CNSL, and the rest is history. Friction additives created from condensation reactions of CNSL and aldehydes were found to have superior friction stability across wide temperature bands. Having proven the technical merit of CNSL, the CNSL derivative industry was spawned. Today, beyond the technical merit, industry is realizing the added benefits of designing state-of-the-art chemistries from this inedible, renewable resource.