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Walko outlines ever-expanding roles for soy oil

By Staff | Dec 27, 2015



AMES – Iowa is a leader in soybean production, as is the United States. In addition to uses for food, animal products and fuel, soybeans are also used for a variety of industrial products.

Lee Walko, bio-based business development manager at Omni Tech International Ltd, spoke Dec. 1 at Iowa State University on the industrial uses of soybeans, focusing mainly paints and coatings.

Soy derivative products, Walko said, include plywood and particle board; polyurethane countertops; on John Deere equipment; tires and even in the seats of many Ford vehicles.

Thanks to support and funding from the United Soybean Board, Walko said it was found that soybean oil can be used in alkyd coatings.

“Alkyd coatings are one of the most highly consumed types of coatings used in the world,” said Walko. “It is low cost, versatile, has a long familiarity and has a historical use of soybeans being used for 50 years.”

Alkyds are an oil-based coating, which are preferred by painters, Walko said.

“They go on better and the alkyds coatings are lasting longer than water-based paints,” he said.

There are many drivers in the coatings industry.

Walko said volatile organic compounds, sustainability, consumer demand and LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) bio-based products are those main influences.

Those particular drivers in the coatings industry, Walko said, have led to a variety of applications including waterborne chemistries, powder coatings, high solids coatings, radiation curable coatings, nano particles and smart coatings.

One product that is meeting the LEED requirements is Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd Interior Paint, which contains soy.

“Over the last 18 years soy use has grown and we are beginning to see a lot more of soy in coating uses,” said Walko. “Soy creates a fundamental building block for coatings.”

So far, Walko said, soy has a lot of success in the coatings industry, including alkyd and alkyd latex; waterborne soy latex emulsions; polyvinyl acrylic and vinyl acetate ethylene emulsions.

Other success stories of soy in the coating’s industry includes a USB-sponsored project for developing yellow traffic paint for Reichhold.

Walko said one gallon of the fast-drying yellow traffic paint uses 12,000 soybeans and holds a USDA bio-preferred label.

A current USB-sponsored project for Rust-Oleum is using soybean oil as a modified polyurethane dispersions. These, Walko said showed higher water resistance compared to other similar coatings.

He added soybean oil is ideal for use because it is inexpensive, abundant and bio-renewable.

In coatings, Walko said soy’s hydrophobic nature increases water resistance.

“This has really been driving the uses of soy in the coatings industry,” he said.

Soy in coatings also provides for durable bonds for film hardness, durability and impact resistance.

Iowa State University, Walko said, is continuously looking for opportunities of soy in the industrial sector.

One example is finding a replacement of the non-biodegradable paraffin-wax coated produce boxes.

This current USB-funded project is being conducted by Dr. Tong Wang of ISU and there are hopes of a bio-based wax soon being developed.

Walko said researchers are only at the beginning of using soybeans in the coatings industry.

However, as more high oleic soybeans move into the marketplace, they could hinder soybeans being used in industrial applications.

“Chances of increased need of high oleic soybeans is going in the wrong direction for use in industrial applications,” he said.

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