Composite Resins and Adhesives from Plants

EPA Grant Number: R829576
Title: Composite Resins and Adhesives from Plants
Investigators: Wool, R. P.
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Richards, April
Project Period: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004
Project Amount: $325,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


The objective of this research is to develop the fundamental science and engineering in support of recent technology breakthroughs in the field of high performance, low cost, composite resins and adhesives from plant oils for new liquid molding and adhesion applications. We recently made the first agricultural equipment parts for John Deere and Company using soybean oil (US Patent 6,121,398), Sheet Molding Compound (Patent Pending) and made the first bio-based pressure sensitive (PSA) adhesives (Patent Pending). Because of the low cost of plant oil (10-15 c/lb) and natural fibers, these new environmentally friendly high performance materials are currently the world's cheapest composites (same price as wood but significantly better properties and manufacturability) and present significant opportunity for new applications. The proposed integrated, cross-disciplinary research program will examine the fundamental issues pertaining to the cost-effective synthesis and manufacture of plant-based, high modulus resins and composites using chemically modified triglycerides and natural fibers (flax, wheat straw, hemp, jute, chicken feathers).


The research focuses on (a) determination of the optimal fatty acid distribution (FAD) function of chemically functionalized, plant oils (soy, corn, linseed, olive, sunflower) using simulation, vector percolation theory and experiment, to minimize the recently discovered fragility of crosslinked triglyceride networks in the matrix; (b) natural and glass fiber sizing or coupling agent development, using di-functionalized high oleic genetically engineered oils, applied in situ in the liquid molding manufacturing step (RTM and VARTM) to tailor the fiber-matrix interface strength; (c) rubber toughening particle (Low Tg) development using the new water-based PSA micro-latex particle technology, applied during liquid molding to enhance impact strength and promote self-healing of damage using high energy ion-cluster surfaces developed for SMC; (d) interfacial and matrix toughening (High Tg) agent development using chemically modified Lignin; (e) natural fiber preform binder development using a highly branched structure of the PSA latex particles (linear chains);and (f) VARTM manufacture of the first large structures using natural fiber preforms and the optimized bio-based resins in support of the shaped engineered wood substitute (SEWS) materials proposed for new housing construction and civil infrastructure.

Expected Results:

The validation of the cost and structure-optimized plant based liquid molding resins will be done with the neat resins and fibers through pilot scale composite manufacturing with glass and natural fibers. We anticipate that the thermal, mechanical and durability property analysis of the resulting bio-based materials, coupled with their low cost will provide continued commercialization incentives for industrial partners (automotive, construction, DoD) in subsequent Phases of this research in the next three years.

Estimated Improvement:

These bio-based composite materials will have a significant impact on the environment with respect to energy consumption, CO2 emissions and Fossil Fuel Equivalents (FFE) used in their synthesis and manufacture. On the basis of replacing about 10B kilos of plastics with plant-based products projected for 2020, the amount of Fossil Fuel savings is about 11B FFE/yr, which is basically a pound of fuel saved per pound of plants or beans used in these bio-based products. This number will increase as the bean chemical processing costs reduces with improved gene manipulation. The savings in fossil fuel would amount to about 150 B lb of CO2 per year. In addition, the soybean oil would amount to another 150B lb of CO2 removed from the air, which along with the natural fibers derived from ag-waste proposed for these composites, they combined would have a significant impact on reducing global warming gases.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 44 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 19 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

triglyceride oil, thermoset, composite, renewable, bio-based materials, natural fibers, chicken feathers, hurricane resistant housing, bio-polymer., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemistry and Materials Science, New/Innovative technologies, Engineering, binder, triglyceride oil, alternative materials, plant oils, carbon dioxide, composites, adhesives, composite resins, resins, pollution prevention

Relevant Websites: Exit EPA icon EPA icon

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • Final Report