Battelle Memorial Institute has licensed technology to make soybean-based polyols to agricultural firm Emery OleoChemicals LLC of Cincinnati.
Emery began sampling the polyols to customers earlier this year and could be making the biopolyols in commercial quantities in Cincinnati by the end of the year, Battelle senior market manager Rick Heggs said in a June 14 phone interview.
The new polyols can be used in flexible and rigid foams, polyurethane coatings and adhesives, officials with Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle said. The technology can replace oil-based polyols and provide farmers with an additional outlet for their crops, they added.
Potential end uses for the biopolyols include furniture, seating and paints. Battelle's biopolyol research was funded by the Ohio Soybean Council and the United Soybean Council. Other successful Battelle projects founded by those groups include soy-based PVC plasticizers as well as lubricants, coatings and toner.
Emery plans to price the biopolyols at parity with their oil-based counterparts, Heggs said.
The technology licensed by Emery is distinct from technology developed by Battelle and the OSC and being used by Biobent Polymers, a Marysville, Ohio-based company that has developed materials combining soy meal with polyethylene and polypropylene.
As the U.S. economy has worked to recover from the recent global downturn, interest in bioplastics and similar materials developed by Battelle has increased, Heggs said. Well-known companies interested in such products include Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and DuPont, he added.
“Interest is growing in these materials,” Heggs said. “They're being looked at as a way to reinvigorate a product line and as a way to develop technology and create jobs that are non-exportable.”
Emery is a global firm that makes a variety of oleochemicals from organic raw materials. The company employs more than 1,000 and posted sales of almost $1 billion in 2010.