Columbus, Ohio — Battelle Memorial Institute wants to bring more soy to the world of plastics.
The Columbus-based research giant continues to work with the United Soybean Board and the Ohio Soybean Council on plastics-related projects. Battelle is close to commercialization on some new soy-based products, researchers recently told Plastics News.
Soybean-based resins can be used in bisphenol-A-free coatings for metal cans, research scientist Rob Cain said in a recent interview in Columbus. The organization also is working on further developments in soy-based foams used in the auto market. Automakers have used a blend containing a percentage of soy in the resin used to make foam for seats, headrests and interior trim for about 10 years.
Olefin-based soy composites also can be used with polypropylene resins in injection molded parts, according to Cain, who's been with Battelle since 2007.
Battelle in June was granted another patent for soy-based materials. The institute is looking to increase licensing of its technologies in this area, said senior research scientist Ram Lalgudi.
“Adding soy meal to plastics isn't new, but the biggest challenge has been handling the temperature of molded parts and addressing biodegradability,” he said in a phone interview. “With too much degradation, you lose the engineering properties of the resin.
“Battelle is working to find out the right composition to reduce that reaction,” said Lalgudi, who was named Battelle's inventor of the year in 2015. He holds 12 U.S. patents and has done extensive work with coatings, adhesives, composites, membranes, encapsulation and medical products since joining Battelle in 2003.
“Soybeans are attractive from the supply chain side, because there are large supplies of hulls that aren't used as food, so there's no controversy there,” Lalgudi said.
Future soy-based plastic applications for Battelle could include replacing sheet molded compound in exterior auto parts. Battelle also is researching ways to combine soy with other resins such as nylon, polycarbonate, ABS and PVC.
Battelle and USB also continue to work with Biobent Polymers of nearby Dublin, Ohio. Biobent in 2012 commercialized Panacea-brand bioplastics. The materials use Battelle technology to combine soy content with polyethylene and PP resins.
In early 2015, North American compounding leader PolyOne Corp. commercialized Geon BIO PVC compounds. Those flexible PVC materials use reFlex-brand soy-based plasticizers that were developed by Battelle. Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne began marketing reFlex in late 2012. The firm is the exclusive licensee for Battelle's reflex bio-plasticizers in North America and Asia.
Soy-based plastics also may find a home in food packaging.
“There's a lot of interest and positive feedback from that market,” Lalgudi said.
Battelle was founded in 1929 and ranks as the world's largest nonprofit research and development organization, employing more than 22,000 at more than 60 locations. Funding for the institute was first established in the will of Ohio industrialist Gordon Battelle.
Inventions and applications attributed to Battelle Memorial Institute include development of dry copying technology commercialized by Xerox Corp., as well as the first nuclear fuel rods for the Nautilus nuclear submarine, advances in metallurgy that helped advance the United States space program, technology used on the first compact disc and on the first jet engines using titanium alloys.
Other Battelle advances include armor plating for tanks used in World War II, cruise control for automobiles and no-melt chocolate.