Herman Benecke, Ph.D., a noted scientist at the research and development organization Battelle, has been chosen to receive the 2010 Industrial Uses of Soybean Oil Award by the American Oil Chemists' Society.
Benecke, described by Battelle as one of its "premier scientists," has specialized in the conversion of soybean oil and meal for various industrial products, including polyols that can be used in polyurethane coatings, foams, and other materials.
Benecke will receive the award May 17 at the American Oil Chemists' Society annual meeting in Phoenix. The award is presented by the Society's Industrial Oil Products Division and is sponsored by the United Soybean Board.
In an interview with PaintSquare News,Benecke and an associate at Battelle, Kathleen Mitchell, said ongoing development work at Battelle is making strides in optimizing the performance and appearance properties of polyurethane coatings based on polyols derived from soybean oil. These properties include high gloss, a mirror-like finish, hardness, and abrasion resistance, they said.
Materials based on the technology are candidates for use as architectural and industrial maintenance coatings, automotive coatings, and other coatings, Mitchell said.
Benecke, a research leader in advanced materials applications, said the process used to produce the polyols involves the reaction of soybean oil with glycerine, which also can be produced as a byproduct of biodiesel. The polyol serves as a base for coatings formulations in which an isocyanate acts as a hardener, or curing agent. The work at Battelle has made strides in developing low-viscosity formulations that reduce the need for solvent, enhancing sprayability while making lower-VOC coatings possible, Benecke said.
"We have been able to produce zero-VOC products," he said.
Benecke said that while the technology developed at Battelle is not the first to bring such biobased polyols onto the market, the Battelle work has shown that such polyols can be produced with 100% biobased source material and can offer performance characteristics comparable to products based on conventional, petrochemical-derived polyols.
"We're always looking to up the biobased content in the final product," he said.
Benecke emphasized the "ongoing" nature of the development work, saying further evaluation of the technology's long-term durability remains to be carried out, and the technology also could benefit from further modifications that would yield even stronger performance properties.
Soybeans and soybean oil also win sustainability points farther upstream, thanks to the soybean plant's inherent capacity as a "nitrogen-fixing" species-meaning it reduces fertilizer demand, he said.
Taking note of the marketing potential for such materials, Benecke pointed to federal legislation that mandates the purchase of products with biobased content by government agencies. He added that the biobased polyol's economics work in its favor, particularly in light of the price volatility of petroleum-based raw materials.
Test marketing of polyurethane products based on the technology is being carried out by Emery Oleochemicals, a Cincinnati-based company, Benecke said.
Key objectives in the ongoing development work, he said, are increased biobased content of formulations and more widespread availability of the technology in the marketplace. A long-range goal, he said, is the development of a biobased isocyanate component of polyurethane formulations.
Since coming to Battelle in 1980, Benecke has been awarded 14 patents, many of which deal with the use of soybean and other vegetable oils to formulate products varying from flexible and rigid foams to more environmentally friendly and healthier plasticizers for the manufacture of PVC flexible tubing, children's toys, vinyl flooring, and other products.
"This award is really for my Battelle team that has pioneered so many of these discoveries," Benecke said in the organization's announcement on his award."
Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, says it is the world's largest independent research and development organization. The organization says its mission is to develop innovative solutions to the world's most pressing needs through its four global businesses: laboratory management, national security, energy technology, and health and life sciences. It conducts $5.6 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization.