Patent Sought on Technology for Soy-Based
Car Parts By Linda McGraw
August 6, 2001
Soybean oil can replace the lion's share of petroleum-based
resin used in automotive parts manufacturing,
Agricultural Research Service scientists
and cooperators report.
Molds are traditionally used in forming auto body parts for cars
and trucks. ARS scientists in Peoria, Ill., and
University of Arizona researchers in
Tucson have developed polymer slurries using soybean oil. The slurries are
guided by new computer technologies to form shapes without molds, according to
Sevim Z. Erhan, a chemist who
leads the ARS research at the National
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria.
This technology, called solid freeform fabrication (SFF),
creates parts and other shapes without molds by the repetitive addition of thin
layers, controlled by a computer-driven program. The computer program traces a
series of lines to make a layer. Successive layers build up into a solid part.
U.S. farmers produce more than 12 billion pounds of soybean oil
annually, and surplus oil frequently exceeds one billion pounds. Yet, only 300
million pounds of soybean oil are used in industrial applications. Substituting
biodegradable soybean oil for petroleum-derived resins can make SFF
environmentally attractive to industry, and the result will be an overall
increased demand for soybeans.
USDA has applied for a patent on behalf of inventors Erhan, ARS
research associate Zengshe (Kevin) Liu, and University of Arizona researcher
Paul D. Calvert.
A more detailed report on the research can be found in the
August issue of Agricultural Research
magazine, ARS' monthly publication, on the web at: