Sugarbeets, sunflowers, soybeans and other crops could play a major role in bio-based resins and protective, marine and other coatings being developed by researchers at North Dakota State University.
Scientists call the new bio-based resins a “game changer” in coatings and resin technology.
“They have the potential to provide a revolutionary impact in some applications, replacing widely used petrochemical-based epoxy compounds,” said Dean Webster, a professor in NDSU’s Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials Webster, who is leading the research group.
|Dr. Dean Webster (center), of North Dakota State University, is working with T.J. Nelson, Xiao Pan and other graduate students on new resins made from renewable raw materials.|
Webster, a respected coatings researcher, is the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Roy W. Tess Award in Coatings from the American Chemical Society. He has authored more than 75 peer-reviewed papers and publications and is credited with 11 patents (an additional 18 pending) on coatings-related topics.
Strengthened Mechanical Properties
The researchers have developed a family of resins from renewable raw materials, eliminating formaldehyde, bisphenol-A and other hazardous components. The resins are based on sucrose and vegetable oils, and can be made from sugarbeets, or oils from soybeans, flax and sunflowers varied to perform in many applications and industries, says Webster.
When cured, the team says, the patent-pending resins show:
• Significantly improved properties over current bio-based materials and processes;
• Mechanical properties comparable to petrochemical-based materials; and
• Dramatically increased renewable material content.
The NDSU technologies “achieve what few bio-based materials have before,” said Webster. “They have vastly improved mechanical properties, reduced hazardous chemical content, and are made from readily available materials and common processes. The technologies have the potential for significantly impacting bio-based material markets,” a market expected to reach $5 billion by 2015.
Curing, Hardness Advances
The team says its resins “are far superior to existing bio-based materials and comparable to petrochemical-based materials.”
Potential applications include the construction, marine, architectural, biomedical and electronics industries. There may also be wide-ranging applications for protective coatings, structural adhesives, composites and other areas that use thermally cured materials. The resins are synthesized using raw materials, reagents and processes common to industry.
|The resins are based on sucrose and vegetable oils, and can be made from sugarbeets, or oils from soybeans, flax and sunflowers.|
The resins could reduce reliance on petrochemical-based materials, now the basis of many coatings formulations. The group’s new epoxidized sucrose ester resins are two to four times as functional as vegetable oil-based resins, says Webster.
One new UV-curable coating developed by the group cures about 10 times faster than current UV-curable bio-based coatings, the team says. Another boasts properties that make it suitable for bio-composite materials, baking enamels and structural adhesives. Yet a third shows more hardness and resistance to solvents than petrochemical-based coatings.
The team also includes graduate students Xiao Pan and T. J. Nelson, undergraduate student Adlina Paramarta and Partha Sengupta, former postdoctoral researcher at NDSU.
The research has been published in three scholarly articles:
• “High Bio-based Content Epoxy Anhydride Thermosets from Epoxidized Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids”
• “Novel bio-based epoxy compounds: epoxidized sucrose esters of fatty acids”
• “Impact of Structure and Functionality of Core Polyol in Highly Functional Bio-based Epoxy Resins”
Green Roots, High Performance
Funding for the bio-based coatings research was provided by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. P&G Chemicals provided the base sucrose ester resins used in this research.
“Interest in the use of renewable feedstocks in the synthesis of polymers is rapidly increasing, driven by consumer demand for ‘green’ products as well as the tightening of the supply of petrochemicals,” said Webster.
“However, consumers are requiring that the bio-based materials have physical properties that match or exceed current high-performance materials.”