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Chemist chemist Sevim Erhan displays container of soy-based polymer slurry: Link to photo information


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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.