New Generation of Adhesives and Sealants Derived From Soybeans and Other Renewable Materials

Rohm and Haas Company has been selected to receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a new generation of adhesives and sealants derived from soybeans and other renewable materials. The program was one of 22 projects (out of more than 400 total nominations) chosen to participate in the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a program jointly sponsored by the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

During the next two years, the company will embark on an aggressive research program to use sugars, soybean oil, castor oil, and other biomass resources in place of traditional petrochemical-based materials. In partnership with the DOE, Rohm and Haas Principal Investigator Thomas Kauffman and his team will join with researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Eastman Chemical Company and the USDA Eastern Regional Research Center in pursuit of these novel biomass chemistries.

“This grant is a tremendous boost to our program, and our team is really excited about getting started,” said Dr. Robert Gleim, technology director for Rohm and Haas Company’s Adhesives and Sealants business. “Results from our exploratory studies are highly encouraging in adhesives, which can be found in everything from pressure sensitive labels and flexible packaging to consumer adhesives and sealants. We also expect this new sustainable technology to have great potential in the production of elastomers and foams that are used in commercial and consumer applications.”

Dr. Gleim said the use of biobased raw materials will deliver several benefits to manufacturers, consumers, and society. “For manufacturers, these novel biobased adhesives will offer better cure times, leading to higher plant productivity and energy reduction. We also expect greater price stability, since these new products will be less dependent on petrochemical raw materials, whose prices traditionally are quite volatile.”

From an environmental standpoint, biobased chemistry is a “natural transition for use in adhesives, foams, and elastomers,” he said. “At even a moderate level of success, this technology will have the potential to replace over 100 million pounds of petrochemical-based materials with those derived from sustainable resources.” For example, using soybean oil in place of petroleum derived materials would eliminate nearly 140 million pounds of greenhouse gases every year.

Rural America would also benefit economically. It is estimated that farmers would earn an additional $125 million annually based on the anticipated need of 50 million pounds of soybean oil used in commercial scale, biobased adhesives.

According to Suzanne B. Rowland, Rohm and Haas Company vice president and business director of Adhesives and Sealants, the time is right to pursue ambitious research on safe soy-sugar adhesives. “We see very positive signs on several fronts—environmental, economics, market interest, and government encouragement—that supports a serious drive into the biorefinery concept,” she said. “It’s time for our industry to step-up to the plate and embrace this type of sustainable development technology. In our Adhesives and Sealants business, we’re excited about taking a leadership role, calling on our rich portfolio of traditional chemistries to transform biobased raw materials into cost effective, high performance products for industry and consumers.”

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