Biorefinery makes use of every bit of a soybean

Aug 22, 2012

The corn industry produces almost 4,000 products from every bushel. Oil refineries produce fuels and ingredients for an estimated 6,000 products with a thoroughness that actually squeezes 44 gallons of products from every 42-gallon barrel of crude.

Scientists today unveiled intended to move soybeans, second only to corn as the top food crop in the U.S., along that same use-to-all path as a raw material for a wider portfolio of products. They described it ― a new integrated soybean biorefinery ― at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

"Mention soybeans to most people, and they immediately think of the ," said Ramani Narayan, MSU University Distinguished Professor, who reported on the new biorefinery technology. "Soybean oil is the world's most widely used edible oil. It's in some margarines, shortenings, mayonnaise, salad dressings, frozen foods, baked goods and many other items. But soybeans are about more than oil. Soybeans are nuggets of green gold that can be a treasure trove of ingredients for other products, and our new biorefinery provides a glimpse of that potential."

The biorefinery is a relatively new concept, based on the approach used at , which produce not just fuels from crude oil, but chemicals that become ingredients for thousands of other everyday products. Biorefineries use not oil as their raw material, but biomass ― plant material ― like corn and convert it into ethanol fuel, for instance, and a range of other products.

Narayan explained that soybeans pack much of corn's potential as a raw material, or "feedstock," for biorefineries. But soybean processing facilities traditionally have focused mainly on producing oil (which also has non-food uses in paints and inks, for instance) and soybean meal for livestock feed.

He described how the biorefinery can use well-established chemical processes to transform other components in soybeans into an array of valuable materials. Proteins in soybean meal, for instance, can be processed into ingredients used to make a variety of polyurethanes, including rigid foam insulation, flexible foams for packaging, as well as coatings, adhesives and elastomers. The soybean meal can further be processed to yield critical components used in polyester plastics for fabrics, ropes, car tires, plastic bottles and LCD screens; Nylon and Kevlar for bulletproof vests; and fire-resistant Nomex.

Likewise, triglycerides in soybean oil can be processed into ingredients used to make formaldehyde-free building insulation. The triglycerides can further be processed to manufacture adhesives, sealants, paints, plastic for toys and clothing using a process that does not require isocyanates. Both formaldehyde and isocyanates are potentially toxic materials, and better alternatives are preferred for these consumer goods. Soybean oil also can yield ingredients for coatings, used on electronic circuit boards, power lines and transformers. The soybean hulls can be chemically modified to make electro-rheological fluids which can be used for high-performance brakes and clutches.

"The biorefinery can utilize essentially every component of the soybean in the production of bio-based for high-value ," Narayan said. "It makes sense from a sustainability standpoint, in which we strive to reduce our dependence on petroleum as a feedstock. It also benefits the farmers and raises the value of the local economy."

Explore further: Chickens to chili peppers: Scientists search for the first genetic engineers

More information:

Abstract

Until recently crude oil was the most important source of basic chemicals and value-added polymeric materials. Using different processes and chemical reactions a barrel of oil is converted to a wide range of chemicals in addition to fuel. More recently renewable materials have become increasingly important raw materials for the chemical industry and the need arises to develop a similar wide range of processes that can utilize every component of these renewable resources. In our work with soybeans, we have used all parts of the bean (meal, oil and hulls) as sources of materials that can be converted economically to value-added products. Examples of this biorefinery concept include the proteins in the meals that were hydrolyzed and then converted to hydroxyl terminated urethanes. These urethanes were then further processed into foams, adhesives, etc. or reacted to yield useful polyesters, polyamides and polyureas. The triglycerides in the oil were subjected to catalyzed ozonation reactions that produced aldehyde, polyols and diesters functional groups. These intermediates were then used to prepare polyesters, formaldehyde-free resins and isocyanate-free polyurethanes. Alternatively, the oil was silylated to yield RTV coatings and other reactive intermediates. The cellulosic hulls were also utilized and were used in electro-rheological fluids and as reinforcing fillers in rubbers.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New biotech advance to add heart healthy omega-3s to US diet

Mar 16, 2010

A new heart-healthy, essential omega-3 fatty acid is about to improve an American pantry staple: soybean oil. The new scientific advance will move biotechnology onto the average consumer's daily radar. U.S. soybean farmers ...

Making cookies that are good for your heart

Sep 13, 2010

Years of research has proven that saturated and trans fats clog arteries, make it tough for the heart to pump and are not valuable components of any diet. Unfortunately, they are contained in many foods. Now, ...

Mapping out pathways to better soybeans

Jul 19, 2010

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are a step closer to unlocking genetic clues that may lead to packing more protein and oil into soybeans, a move that would boost their value and help U.S. growers compete in ...

Plant soybean early to increase yield

Feb 02, 2009

Over the past decade, two-thirds of Indiana growers have shifted to planting their soybean crop earlier because they believe that earlier planting increases yield. Planting date is probably one of the most important yet least ...

Recommended for you

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

9 hours ago

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...