Agriculture Materials Research

Our research has a rich history in natural products beginning with the late sixties work with the Pan American Tung Research and Development League. Since its inception, the group has maintained the development and utilization of novel agricultural derivatives for monomers, polymers, coatings, adhesives, and composites as a research focus.

Polymers have significant impact on our daily lives via a variety of products including plastics, composites, coatings, cosmetics, packaging, pharmaceuticals, textiles, food additives, and much more. Traditionally, polymers rely heavily upon petroleum as the fundamental raw material. However, rising costs and questionable sustainability of petroleum reserves have prompted the search for viable alternative resources. Natural product use in polymeric materials continues to be underutilized despite its clear and sustainable advantages as a renewable resource. Over the years, TRRG has developed numerous environmentally responsible, natural product intermediates for use in monomers, polymers, latexes, coatings, wood adhesives, ultraviolet (UV) curable systems, reactive diluents, rheology modifiers, and polymers. TRRG remains focused on agriculture-based technology platform research and development in support of American farmers and promoting an environment of sustainability for the future.

 

Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils are triglyceride esters of fatty acids and can be chemically modified to yield a variety of derivatives for use in emulsions, polymers, coatings, and foams. Examples of oils that have been derivatized into useful products in our research group include soybean, linseed, castor, tung, vernonia, lesquerella, sunflower, and safflower. Our research has developed a series of vegetable oil derivatives for use as comonomers and reactive surfactants (surfmers) in emulsion polymerization and reactive diluents for latexes.

Vegetable oil derivatives termed vegetable oil macromonomers (VOMMs), are functionalized for efficient incorporation into emulsions via copolymerization with conventional monomers. VOMMs were engineered with three characteristics for application in environmentally responsible emulsions; copolymerizability with common monomers to form part of the final polymer and not leave the coating as a pollutant, plasticizing monomers for efficient ambient film formation eliminating added cosolvents for high gloss tough films, and after application self-crosslinking via auto-oxidation for increased performance. The synergistic combination of vegetable oil derivatives and an acrylic backbone provides storage-stable, self-crosslinking polymeric materials. A majority of our research and development has been in the area of architectural and/or industrial decorative and protective coatings with near-zero or zero VOC emissions. Moreover, VOMMs quantitatively replace petroleum-based monomers in emulsion formulations and help lower our dependence on imported petroleum. Advantageously, VOMMs can be synthesized from any vegetable oil, independent of its composition, and offer the American farmer increased value for all oilseed crops. VOMM-based emulsions are employable in all types of coatings, e.g., architectural coatings, industrial coatings, textile finishes, paper coatings, seed coatings, sealants and caulks, organic food storage, and adhesives.

VOMM design and synthesis have been optimized for structure versus property parameter understanding that influence monomer incorporation in emulsions, i.e., surfactant choice and quantity, emulsion processing parameters, initiator proportion, comonomer selection, and the structure-property relationship for final emulsion polymer and coating materials. The newest VOMM, i.e., SoyAA-1, is synthesized by a simple two-step procedure without producing toxic byproducts, is TSCA approved, and is easily incorporated via emulsion copolymerization. SoyAA-1 is 66% vegetable oil by weight, has an ideal hydrophobic-hydrophilic balance for facile conventional emulsion synthesis using standard conditions, and retains allylic unsaturation through the free radical emulsion polymerization process to produce minimal coagulum during the process.

 

Proteins

Commercial particleboards employ urea-formaldehyde resin as the adhesive for binding wood furnish and are known to emit formaldehyde over their service lives.  The occupational exposure of formaldehyde during particleboard production and the slow liberation of formaldehyde during the service life of particleboards pose serious health concerns due to formaldehyde’s toxicity and carcinogenicity.  Through USDA sponsored research, the TRRG has developed particleboards that employ a soybean protein-based adhesive as the sole binder.  These particleboards meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) performance specifications for M-1, M-2, M-3, and M-S grades, and are totally free of synthetic formaldehyde precursors.  The particleboards match and, in some instances, even exceed the performance properties of commercial particleboards.  Soil biodegradability and marine respirometry studies have validated that the soybean protein adhesive-based particleboards are totally biodegradable.

 

 
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Thames-Rawlins Research Group    |    118 College Drive #5217 Hattiesburg, MS 39406    |    Phone: 601.266.5618    |    Fax: 601.266.5880
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