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Soy-based Resin for Composites Shows Potential

26 March 2007

Working under funds provided by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SREDP), a joint effort of EPA and the Departments of Defense and Energy, John LaScala, of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and his team have developed a soy-based composite.

The resin is said to perform equal to, or better, than its petroleum-based counterpart and reduce styrene emissions by 20-78 percent.

“This means that soldiers working to repair vehicles can work more safely, it also means that military repair shops can meet EPA standards without emission control systems which can easily cost a $1 million per installation,” LaScala explains.

The biobased composite has very wide application, not only in vehicles but also in aircraft and ships, both military and civilian. The various branches of the military are currently laboratory-testing the product, are planning to field test it next year, and if all goes as expected, mass production of original equipment and parts could begin in 2009.

Meanwhile, commercialization of the product has begun with a licensing agreement with Vertachem Corp who is in the early stages of introducing the product to major resin manufacturers.

Like many entrepreneurial enterprises, Vertachem came into being as a result of a joint-MBA project between Tom Watchko and David Epstein, cofounders of the company. “We’ve also had some very good help from the United Soybean Board (USB) in the person of Tom Doyle, who is with OmniTech International, USB’s technical consulting firm.

According to Watchko, “Tom Doyle, who knows the resins industry inside and out, has helped us in many ways from finding suppliers of soy-based raw material to opening the doors of the big resin manufacturers as well as good, sound business advice that only comes from industry experience. We appreciate his efforts and we appreciate USB for providing Tom as a resource to us.”

“This product with its twin attributes of being environmentally friendly and being made from a renewable resource has everything going for it. Its potential is tremendous,” concludes Doyle.

In addition, LaScala is working on a similar product, a biobased resin that is used in vehicle body repair.

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