New Liquid Epoxies Created from Cane Sugar
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630, email@example.com
June 10, 1999
WASHINGTON, June 10--Sugar (sucrose) extracted from sugarcane juice is the
main ingredient in new liquid epoxies that can bind wood, metal, glass,
concrete and other materials, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists and
The advance may open a new industrial outlet for the sweetener in the form
of base coats, primers or adhesives for composite materials like particle
boarding or boat hulls. "It's an example of science finding a surprising new
use for a common, everyday agricultural commodity," said Floyd P. Horn,
administrator for the Agricultural Research Service, the USDA agency
carrying out the project.
More than three million tons of American cane sugar is produced annually,
but less than 2 percent is used for non-food purposes, such as fermentation.
As a food product, cane sugar has to compete with artificial and low-calorie
What sucrose offers that the other sweeteners do not is an abundant,
chemically pure source of raw material for creating epoxies that can bind
with such diverse materials as wood or plastic, says lead scientist and
chemist Navzer D. Sachinvala, at the ARS' Southern Regional Research Center
in New Orleans.
"Once these epoxies set, they become clear glassy or rubbery materials,
depending on the type used," Sachinvala says.
It's too soon to say how the new epoxies will fare in a market dominated by
petroleum- based products. But Sachinvala cites a few selling points,
notably the sucrose epoxies' lack of ingredients like Bisphenal-A, a
component of petroleum-based products. Controversy surrounds the chemical
because of its alleged role in disrupting the reproductive system of mice
and possibly humans.
Other sucrose epoxy benefits include an ability to cure or harden in
conditions from below room temperature to 150 degrees Celsius. Lab tests
indicate the epoxies are also capable of remaining stable under direct
exposure to sunlight and saltwater, Sachinvala reports.
Results from studies published in the Journal of Polymer Science also
indicate bonding strengths comparable to those of the petroleum product
diglycidyl ether of Bisphenal-A, or DGEBA. One of the sucrose epoxies
tested, called a crotyl monomer, outperformed the DGEBA product by 30
Sachinvala began exploring cane sugar's industrial potential in 1988, first
as a Case Western Reserve University graduate student, and later as a
scientist at Hawaii's Agricultural Research Center (HARC) in Oahu. In 1996,
he joined ARS' New Orleans center. There, along with HARC scientists Othman
Hamed and David Winsor, Sachinvala perfected an epoxidation process that
employs reagents like oxygenated vinegar to change sucrose's molecular
structure and chemical properties.
Negotiations with an industrial partner are underway to produce large
amounts of the sucrose epoxies so commercial criteria like price and
performance can be determined and compared to existing materials. A more
detailed article appears in the June issue of Agricultural Research, ARS'
monthly publication and on the web at:
Scientific contact: Navzer D. Sachinvala, ARS Southern Regional Research
Center, New Orleans, La., phone (504) 286-4324, fax (504) 286-4271,
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