Today marks the USDA’s inaugural National Biobased Products Day, which is intended to raise awareness of biobased products, their benefits and contributions to the U.S. economy.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is proud to support several research and development programs to help advance biobased products and a sustainable bioeconomy:
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, specifically, the priority areas A1531 (Biorefining and Biomanufacturing) and A1414 (Sustainable Bioeconomy through Biobased Products) of the Foundational and Applied Sciences Program
Exploring Novel Consumer Products Made from Ag Materials
SBIR/STTR’s Biofuels and Biobased Products topic area supports innovative research into the development of biobased products from agricultural materials while providing new opportunities to diversify agriculture’s role in the raw materials industry.
Examples of promising projects currently underway include:
Insectapel, a small business based in Wellford, S.C., is working to develop novel coating systems to infuse fabrics with new cutting-edge biobased insect repellents discovered by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
In Portland, Oregon, small business Formology Inc. is building on preliminary work undertaken with Washington State University to scale-up the manufacturing of decorative architectural panels — made from hazelnut shell byproduct — for interior design applications.
Tomorrow Water, a small business based in Anaheim, Calif., is developing a nontoxic method to extract keratin from slaughtering waste so that it can be used in the high-demand keratin market that supports the personal care and cosmetic industries.
In Laramie, Wyo., the small business Evoseer has created a wood-derived cathode that has the potential to double the performance of lithium batteries while lowering cost. The company is developing methods to increase capacity so that their cathodes— made from readily available forest biomass — are viable alternatives to ones currently made from metal oxides.
Biobased Products Can Extend Longevity
In addition to developing new bioproducts from crops and other agricultural products, NIFA grantees are exploring new — and sometimes surprising — ways to use biobased materials.
While the benefit of some biobased products is how much more quickly that they can degrade, the value of others can be found in their ability to extend longevity.
One project that proposes to do just that is currently being undertaken by Soylei Innovations, a small business based in West Des Moines, Iowa. With support from NIFA’s Bioproduct Pilot Program, the company is investigating how to transform high oleic soybean oil into thermoplastic rubber for pavements. This work builds on previous collaborations with Iowa State University and Auburn University.
One application for this technology enables paving with reclaimed asphalt without a need to heat the new paving mixtures, resulting in considerable cost, energy and material savings. According to the company, these biobased thermoplastic rubbers also have the potential to extend longevity of repairs of existing roads.