|Veggie Oils as
New fluids derived from vegetable oils have potential as base oils for
making lubricants. Under a research agreement with Caterpillar, Inc.,
Peoria, Illinois, scientists are chemically modifying and testing the
oils for improvements. Such modifications allow the biodegradable product
to perform nearly as well as a synthetic one, but at lower cost.
Environmental concerns have created a high demand for biodegradable lubricants
and hydraulic fluids. Yet, just 2 percent of hydraulic fluids used in
bulldozers, tractors, and other heavy equipment are biodegradable. The
vegetable base oils cost about 35 cents a pound, compared to 25 cents
for a base of mineral oil and $1.50 for a base of synthetic esters. Caterpillar
engineers are testing the performance of two of the ARS-developed base
Sevim Z. Erhan, USDA-ARS
Oil Chemicals Research
Unit, Peoria, Illinois; phone (309) 681- 6531.
A new ARS study on iron and
zinc needs of expectant and
nursing mothers and their babies
will soon be under way.
|Moms-To-Be Also Need Zinc
Expectant and nursing mothers are routinely prescribed therapeutic doses
of ironbut not zinc. But research has shown that iron supplements
may interfere with zinc uptake and use late in pregnancy and during the
first 3 months of breast-feeding. Yet, these are the times when zinc is
most needed for baby's growth and mother's milk production.
|A new study is looking
at healthy, nonsmoking, pregnant volunteers who plan to breast-feed their
infants. They will report on the foods they eat and give biological specimens
for testing. Some will reside briefly at a guesthouse and eat specially
prepared meals. Researchers hope to learn more about a mother's and baby's
needs for both iron and zinc.
Janet C. King, USDA-ARS Western
Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, California; phone (530) 752-5268.
| Raspberries the
Color of Coho
Consumers may soon be seeing a new red raspberry in their local markets.
Named "Coho" after the red-skinned salmon of the Pacific Northwest,
the new variety will extend the availability of fresh raspberries by 7
to 10 days, compared to the current late-season standard, Tulameen.
Developed by crossing Lewis with other breeding lines, Coho was most extensively
tested in Oregon. It should grow well in raspberry-growing areas with
winter temperatures above 0 °F. Researchers can obtain small amounts
of Coho from the breeders, and growers will find plants at several Northwest
Chad E. Finn, USDA-ARS Northwest
Center for Small Fruit Research, Corvallis, Oregon; phone (541) 750-8759.
Soybean Hulls To Filter Wastewater
The soybean's outer coat could become another high-volume, low-value agricultural
waste product with high potential value. Each year, U.S. soy processing
generates 10 to 15 billion pounds of hulls that are typically sold to
animal feed supplement producers for around $40 a ton.
Rather than use the hulls as a feed ingredient, scientists want to give
them an industrial use. One idea is to convert them into ion exchange
resins for use in adsorbent filters to capture metals in solutions.
Jewelry-making, electroplating, and other industries generate waste water
contaminated with metals. Most commercial ion exchange resins cost from
$2 to $20 per pound, depending on whether they're synthetic or cellulose
based. Researchers calculate that the cost of the soy-based resins would
drop to 53 cents per pound, if processed at a rate of 22,000 pounds of
hulls a day.
Best of all, trials with solutions containing cadmium, copper, lead, nickel,
and zinc showed that the modified hulls did a slightly better job of capturing
positively charged ion forms than commercial resins did. Now, a company
in Minnesota is keenly interested in testing the soybean hull adsorbents.
Lynda H. Wartelle,
Wayne E. Marshall, USDA-ARS
Utilization Research Unit, New Orleans, Louisiana; phone (504) 286-4356.
Reducing OrganicsSolvents, That Is
Some organic solvents used in processing agricultural commodities are
toxic. Curbing their use would reduce the amount of toxins released into
the environmenta goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Solvents like hexane are used to get enzymes to act as a catalyst for
chemical reactions. Now, solutions called ionic liquids are substituting
for solvents in research laboratories. At room temperature, they behave
as saltlike fluids. And combining use of ionic liquids with supercritical
carbon dioxide is an even more effective way to perform enzymatic reactions.
A synergism makes the two environmentally friendly techniques a better
processing method when used together.
Joseph A. Laszlo,
USDA-ARS National Center for Agricultural
Utilization Research, Peoria, Illinois; phone (309) 681-6322.
"Science Update" was published in the October
2001 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.