Use of a Corn Processing Co-Product as a Biofiller Material in a Plastic Resin

EPA Grant Number: SU832478
Title: Use of a Corn Processing Co-Product as a Biofiller Material in a Plastic Resin
Investigators: Tatara, Robert A.
Current Investigators: Tatara, Robert A. , Bremer, Nathan , Olszewski, Robert , Suraparaju, Srikrishna
Institution: Northern Illinois University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through May 30, 2006
Project Amount: $9,933
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


  1. The United States currently produces over 3,000,000 tons of corn processing co-products, mostly from the manufacture of ethanol from corn. The co-products may be dried solids, or solids mixed with solubles, and the main use of these co-products is in animal feeds. However, this is a relatively low value use. A better use for this material would be as some higher value industrial material. One potential application for these corn processing co-products involves plastics manufacturing. Currently, many plastic products utilize low-cost materials as fillers; fillers are usually inert materials added to plastics to reduce the cost of the final product. To accomplish this, fillers are selected that cost much less than the resin, the price of which is strongly dependent on crude oil prices.
  2. Thus there exists a need to establish the feasibility of using corn processing co-products as a potential biofiller to create a novel biocomposite material.
  3. This project enhances P3 sustainability by providing an alternative, higher value utilization for corn processing co-products. This would reduce the amount of resin, manufactured from petroleum raw materials, in plastic products. Thus the planet's oil reserves are conserved and the amount of plastic disposed of, at the end of the product's useful life, is reduced. An additional benefit of such a biofiller material would be to increase the biodegradability of the plastic with the potential of creating a "greener" plastic. Overall, this work impacts P3 sustainability on a global level by minimizing the environmental impact of plastic products while lowering costs and conserving non-renewable resources.
  4. The strategy to examine the feasibility of using corn co-products as a biofiller material in a plastic is to conduct a physical analysis of corn co-product and resin (plastic) blends; process the blends via compression molding; determine the compatibility of the corn co-product filler with the selected resin; determine appropriate ranges for process parameter settings of filler concentration, molding pressure, temperature, and time; and quantify the effects of the co-product level and the process settings upon the mechanical properties and physical appearance of the resulting plastic composites.
  5. These P3 concepts will be implemented through a project team consisting of undergraduate students as well as one graduate student. The students will manufacture the biofiller and resin blends, process the blends into products, examine the products for quality and general appearance, and mechanically test the blends. Most of this work will be integrated into projects as part of the students' plastics curriculum at Northern Illinois University.

Supplemental Keywords:

green chemistry, innovative technology, waste reduction, waste minimization, environmentally conscious manufacturing, engineering, agriculture, plastics technology,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, pollution prevention, Environmental Engineering, cleaner production, environmentally conscious manufacturing, biodegradable plastics, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biocomposite, biofiller, biodegradable materials, environmentally friendly green products, plastics manufacturing, green chemistry

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report