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EPA Reveals Small Business Innovation Research Grants

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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A concrete alternative, an isocyanate-free polyurethane and a bio-based replacement for fumed silica are among the developments on the receiving end of a new round of Small Business Innovation Research contracts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nine new SBIR disbursements, dubbed 2016 SBIR Phase II contracts because they were requested during fiscal year 2016 and follow up on Phase I contracts awarded in 2015, were announced last week by the EPA. The contracts are intended to help small businesses to develop technologies that will provide sustainable solutions to environmental issues. The contracts run from March 2017 through February 2019.

SBIR is a program run by the Small Business Administration, with a number of federal agencies taking part.

The areas of focus of the EPA’s Phase II series projects named last week are air and climate, toxic chemicals, water and building materials. Several of the contracts relate to coatings and building materials.

Alternative Concrete

Metna Co. (Lansing, Michigan) received a $300,000 grant to continue to pursue the development of an alternative concrete chemistry that the firm says will exhibit “significantly enhanced durability, sustainability, economy, safety and strength.”, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The firm aims to create a concrete binder that eliminates some of the carbon-emissions and long-term durability questions that come with Portland cement, and that comes at a cost that doesn’t make it prohibitive.

Metna’s Phase I project concluded that its method shows potential to convert construction and demolition wastes and industrial byproducts into “hydraulic cements with performance characteristics matching or surpassing those offered by Portland cement and required by ASTM standards.”

The firm aims to create a concrete binder that eliminates some of the carbon-emissions and long-term durability questions that come with Portland cement, and that comes at a cost that doesn’t make it prohibitive. If Phase II of the project is successful, the company hopes the binder will hit the market in the sewer and transportation infrastructure sectors first.

Bio-Based Silica Alternative

A $299,955 contract for SioTeX Corporation, based in San Marcos, Texas, will help further that firm’s research into a replacement for fumed silica that’s derived from biological sources.

Rice hulls
© / SorJongAng

SioTeX received an SBIR grant to further work on its drop-in replacement for fumed silica, derived from rice hulls.

SioTeX is developing a product based on rice hulls—a bio-waste created when rice is milled for use as food—that it believes can take the place of fumed silica, a component of paints and coatings that is currently manufactured in what the company characterizes as a costly, energy-intensive and hazardous process.

Fumed silica, used as a rheology modifier in coatings, is different from crystalline silica (which is known to cause silicosis and in some cases lunch cancer) and is not classified as a carcinogen, but has been shown to put handlers at risk for irritation when inhaled. 

The rice hull-based fumed silica substitute would use less energy and fewer hazardous reactants to create, the company says. The patent-pending Eco-Sil could be manufactured domestically, the company says, and could help reduce the environmental footprint of coatings.

SioTeX team

SioTeX says its bio-based substitute for fumed silica could be manufactured in the U.S.

The company has been in talks with some coatings companies about using Eco-Sil as a drop-in replacement for fumed silica in formulations, it says, and according to its Phase I final report, more than 30 companies are currently testing the product.

Isocyanate-Free Polyurethane

TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colorado) received a $300,000 contract for the development of a new isocyanate-free polyurethane chemistry, to eliminate isocyanate toxicity in relation to polyurethanes.

Polyurethane chemistry currently relies on the combination of two components, one with hydroxyl groups and the other with isocyanate groups. TDA’s project looks to create a safer replacement for the isocyanate component; the firm says the Phase I part of its project showed that the method it has developed has the potential to serve as a drop-in replacement for that polyurethane component.

The company says if its project is successful, it will develop a component that can simply replace the current isocyanate component without requiring other changes to how polyurethanes are manufactured—making the transition to market quick. TDA says the change also has the potential to bring down costs and VOC emissions.

In addition to the 2015 Phase I contract for the same project, TDA has taken part in 52 other SBIR projects since 1990, according to EPA records.

All of the 2016 Phase II EPA SBIR contract recipients are listed here, with links to further information.


Tagged categories: Additives; Asphalt; Bio-based materials; Cement; Coating chemistry; concrete; Good Technical Practice; Isocyanate; North America; Polyurethane; Silicate

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