Ethanol Coproducts Eyed as Fillers in Plastics
By Don Comis
June 19, 2008
A coproduct of ethanol production could
be used as a non-petroleum-based filler in plastics, based on preliminary
studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their cooperators.
The ethanol coproduct, called distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS),
has a high fiber content and a molecular structure suitable for
bindingtwo attributes that make it a candidate as a filler in plastics,
according to ARS agricultural engineer
Rosentrater is based at the ARS
Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D. He conducted
the research with Robert A. Tatara, a professor at the Northern Illinois
Department of Technology, part of NIU'S
College of Engineering and Engineering
The researchers compressed molded blends of DDGS and phenolic plastic resin
(ranging from 0 to 90 percent DDGS) and found that DDGS concentrations between
25 and 50 percent worked best as fillers in plastics. These findings were
published recently in the Journal of Polymers and the Environment (JPE).
The preliminary study yielded only limited data on the resulting physical
properties of the various DDGS/plastic blends, so follow-up tests are currently
The data can then be used to develop new bio-based manufactured products.
Rosentrater and Andrew W. Otieno, also with Northern Illinois University's
Department of Technology, have developed comprehensive guidelines that take
into account the unique challenges encountered when manufacturing plastic
composites that contain biological materials. This work has also been published
in the JPE.
Fillers such as clay, talc, glass, paper and metals are commonly used in
plastics to increase strength, and also to save costs by reducing the amount of
actual plastic resin used. Using bio-based fillers such as bamboo, kenaf, corn
stover, soybean hulls or even chicken feathers is receiving increased attention
as a way to use less petroleum in plastic products. Thus both DDGS and
distiller's dried grains (DDG) are candidates for use as biofillers for
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.