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An overview of the ongoing work at Iowa State University in the area of ‘bioadvantaged’ plastics will be presented by associate professor in chemical and biological engineering Eric Cochran, at INDA RISE 2014 conference, which takes place in Miami, Florida, from February 10-12 2015.

ISU has been a leader in the field of plastics formed largely from bio-renewable resources and with cost and property advantages since the pioneering work of ISU chemistry professor Richard LaRock, who was the first to convert vegetable oil into thermoset plastics and elastomers.


Today, ISU’s newly-formed NSF Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites serves the interests of over 20 member companies in the development of new processes and products in the field of biobased polymeric materials.

The Cochran Research Group’s work in this area began nearly four years ago with its discovery that controlled radical polymerizations such as ATRP and RAFT* can transform vegetable oils into thermoplastic rubbers.

Combined with hard segments such as polystyrene or polymethylmethacrylate, the group can produce block copolymers that serve the thermoplastic elastomers industry. It has since applied its technology to other biobased feedstocks, including glycerine, lignin-based phenolic residues, sugars, isosorbide, and lactic acid.

This new palette of biomonomers is creating a new array of biobased thermoplastics, asphalt modifiers, sealants, adhesives and viscosity modifiers. These will find commercial success not because they are renewable, but rather because they offer unique traits that their competitors cannot, Cochran says.

*Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization and Reversible Addition-Fragmentation Chain Transfer polymerization.


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