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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering Research

2010 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1)Use cereal or tuber starches to make polymer composites for non-food products. 2)Develop methods of processing starch composites into molded articles. 3)Convert agricultural fibers into biodegradable packaging, building materials and slurry-molded products. 4)Isolate cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose components from ag-fibers by applying environmentally friendly fractionation methods. 5)Promote technology transfer of these innovations.

Conduct more basic studies of the structure and properties of microfibrils from cereal products and crop residues, which could lead to their eventual use in building and packaging foams, nanocomposites and related products.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Starch will be blended with other polymers to produce resins with useful functional properties for making renewable products. Blend compatibility will be enhanced by use of starch derivatives and compatibilizers. Resins will be molded into marketable items using current and novel processing technologies, accompanied by physical and mechanical testing.Fiber reinforced packaging materials will be made via a foam-baking process, extrusion, injection molding and thermoforming. Advantageous functional properties of agriculturally-derived fibers used in these packages will be correlated to fiber length, aspect ratio, freeness, surface properties, and miscibility. Ag-derived fibers will be pulped using novel procedures, such as hot-compressed water (HCW) treatment, an environmentally friendly method of isolating cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose via super-heated water. Processed fibers will be optimized by chemical, enzymatic and chemoenzymatic modification. Methods for isolating and characterizing cellulose microfibrils as nanocomposites will be developed/exploited. Formerly 5325-41000-039-00D (6/04); combining 5325-41000-047-00D (7/08); Replacing 5325-41000-044-00D (2/10).

3.Progress Report
This project was replaced by 5325-41000-044-00D.

This project meets the objectives of the second component of the NP306 Action Plan to develop New Processes, New Uses, and Value Added Foods and Biobased Products based on cereals, tuber crops and novel agricultural fibers. The subsections listed below indicate the research progress achieved during the fiscal year 2010.

Work has progressed in the development of bioproducts that include control-release devices for controlling mites in honeybee colonies and wax moths, green charcoal, improved kitty litter, and fish waste products. A new gelling agent was tested to solidify a liquid active agent for improved performance in reservoir-type control-release devices. The gel allows much higher encapsulation levels of the active ingredient and is readily biodegradable. This work was done in collaboration with scientists at City College of New York. Progress has been shared with collaborators in Tucson, AZ. In other encapsulation work, porous starch spheres that are generally less than 20 micrometers were developed as an encapsulation media for delivering essential oils. The essential oils, which were encapsulated in starch micro-spheres, have been demonstrated effective in controlling mite infestations in honeybee colonies. These spheres are in the size range of pollen grains which makes them more likely to be ingested by honeybees. This work resulted in the filing of a patent and journal article.

Work on developing biobased products for the pet litter industry was continued under an agreement with Clorox. A new and effective clumping agent was found and tested. Progress on research with Clorox is disclosed in the subordinate project progress report. Work was also completed on investigating the use of polyurethane compounds made from agricultural feestocks. This work was done collaboratively with scientists at Pittsburg State University. The biodegradation of the biobased polyurethanes was determined with results published in FY 2010. A patent was filed in 2010 for a new method of producing nanofibers from polymer solutions. The technology involves a process that is scalable and produces fibers in the same size range as obtained by electrospinning. Cooperative work continues between ARS, EMBRAPA of Brazil and visiting scientists from France. Cooperative research was initiated in FY 2010 with scientists in Italy. An ARS scientist visited the University of Pisa and conducted research on utilizing cellulosic waste from coconut in packaging composite materials. The work resulted in one publication. Work continued in FY 2010 on developing new products from fish waste. A cooperative research effort with ARS scientists in Alaska has been productive for the last several years. Research on developing gelatin films from Alaska Pollock and salmon culminated in a peer-reviewed publication in 2010. The gelatin films were characterized and explored as a new commercial source of gelatin.

1. Fish gelatin/polymer nanofibers made from processing byproducts. Fish waste is a major concern for the Alaskan fishing industry and could provide a source for prion-free gelatin nanofibers that have medical applications. ARS scientists in Albany, CA and Anchorage, Alaska produced nanofibers from blends of fish gelatin and biodegradable polymers by electrospinning. The nanofibers were produced without the use of solvents other than water and were successfully doped with antibiotics. The fish gelatin nanofibers create a potentially high value product for the medical industry from fish by-products that will help generate new markets and bioproducts from waste generated by the Alaskan fishing industry.

2. Superabsorbents derived from wheat gluten. There is a need to develop replacements for petroleum-based products such as superabsorpbents using agricultural feedstocks. ARS scientists in Albany, CA produced superabsorbent materials from wheat gluten treated with different acids. The gluten superabsorbents not only are derived from natural materials but also have functional properties comparable to their petroleum counterparts. The superabsorbents are food grade and could be used as rheology modifiers in food products. This research could lead to greater commercial utilization of wheat gluten.

3. Biobased polyurethane. There is a need to develop replacements for petroleum-based products such as polyurethane. ARS scientists in Albany, CA and their colleagues from Pittsburg State University developed thermoplastic polyrethanes from vegetable oils. The biobased polyurethane biodegraded at a higher rate than petroleum-based polyurethanes and yet otherwise had comparable properties. This research will lead to greater utilization of agricultural products that are functional replacements for petroleum-based polyurethanes.

4. Starch-based encapsulation media. There is a need to develop strategies to minimize the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides and use more natural control agents along with better and more effective delivery systems. ARS scientists in Albany, CA developed porous particles from micro-porous starch that can be loaded with natural pesticides such as essential oils. The small particle size, similar to pollen grains in size and shape, facilitates particle dispersion and adhesion to the host bee thereby protecting it against parasitic mites. This research could lead to greater use of natural products from agriculture in controlling pests and protecting beneficial insects such as the honeybee.

5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Members of this project organized the WRRC sponsored Academic Workshop which is a special outreach program that involves offering a high school course to promote science and education for local under-served students. Members of this project also taught one of the classes in this program.

Review Publications
Chiou, B., Avena Bustillos, R.D., Bechtel, P.J., Imam, S.H., Glenn, G.M., Orts, W.J. 2009. Effects of Drying Temperature on Barrier and Mechanical Properties of Cold-Water Fish Gelatin Films. Journal of Food Engineering. 95(2), 327-331.

Lacey, L.A., Shapiro Ilan, D.I., Glenn, G.M. 2010. Post-Application of Anti-Desiccant Agents Improves Efficacy of Entomopathogenic Nematodes in Formulated Host Cadavers or Aqueous Suspension Against Diapausing Codling Moth Larvae (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae). Biocontrol Science and Technology. Vol 20:909-921.

Robertson, G.H., Hurkman Ii, W.J., Cao, T., Tanaka, C.K., Orts, W.J. 2010. Finding the Bio in Biobased Products: Electrophoretic Identification of Wheat Proteins in Processed Products. Journal of Agricultural Food & Chemistry. 2010 April 14;58(7):4169-79.

Rosa, M.F., Medeiros, E.S., Malmonge, J.A., Gregorski, K.S., Wood, D.F., Mattoso, L.H., Glenn, G.M., Orts, W.J., Imam, S.H. 2010. Cellulose nanowhiskers from coconut husk fibers: effect of preparation conditions on their thermal and morphological behavior. Carbohydrate Polymers. 81:83-92.

Corradini, E., Imam, S.H., Agnelli, J.A., Mattoso, L.H. 2009. Effect of Coconut, Sisal and Jute Fibers on the Properties of Starch/Gluten/Glycerol Matrix. Journal of Environment and Polymers. 17:1-9.

Corti, A., Muniyasamy, S., Vitali, M., Imam, S.H., Chiellini, E. 2010. Oxidation and biodegradation of polyethylene films containing pro-oxidantadditives: Synergistic effects of sunlight exposure, thermal aging and fungal biodegradation. Polymer Degradation and Stability. 95:1106-114.

Xue, C., Wang, D., Xiang, B., Chiou, B., Sun, G. 2010. Morphology Evolution of Polypropylene in Immiscible Polymer Blends for Fabrication of Nanofibers. Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics. Volume 48:921-931.

Picciani, P.H., Soares, B.G., Medeiros, E.S., De Siyza, F.G., Wood, D.F., Orts, W.J., Mattoso, L.H. 2009. Electrospinning of Polyaniline/Poly(Lactic Acid) Ultrathin Fibers: Process and Statistical Modeling using a Non-Gaussian Approach. Macromolecular Theory and Simululations. 18:528–536.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
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