Biodegrable Yet Strong Superglue Alternative Made from Soya

Most adhesives are created from fossil fuels and require countless years to biodegrade, but a novel alternative manufactured from soya plants connects metal, wood, and synthetic surfaces equally as well.

A biodegradable glue produced from soya bean oil generates strong bonds that eventually disintegrate, paving the way for more sustainable commercial items, packaging, and sticky labels.

Environmental Benefit

The new adhesive can hold most materials together just as well as traditional epoxies, which are fossil fuel-based plastics that take thousands of years to biodegrade. According to Jonathan Wilker of Purdue University in Indiana, replacing present epoxies with soya alternatives might prevent tonnes of microplastics from entering the oceans and landfills each year, thereby reducing glue-related carbon emissions by fivefold.

“All these products that are held together with adhesive – electronics and shoes and furniture and walls and cars and books, and these cardboard boxes in my office with shipping labels on them – most of them never get recycled, because you just can’t get that stuff off,” he said.

Also read : What is Soy Lecithin and its Rapidly Growing Market?

Emulate the sticky chemical characteristics found in mussel adhesive.

Wilker and his colleagues were inspired by earlier study into the natural adhesives that mussels employ to adhere to rocks. They discovered that they could add particular acids to soya bean oil to simulate the sticky chemical features of the mussel glue.

The team tested its soya-based glue on metal, wood, and synthetic surfaces and discovered that it generally produced bindings of equal strength to petroleum epoxies. Soya adhesive was roughly 30% stronger than superglue in holding polished aluminum together. While 180°C offered the strongest connection, 5 minutes of heating with a commercial hairdryer was sufficient for many industrial applications.

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After one week underwater, the bonds still retained up to 78% of their original strength. According to Wilker, the adhesive’s strength and biodegradation timing may be customized for different purposes by adjusting the temperature and duration of heating. For example, glue can last a week for labels or years for telephones.

Petroleum epoxy production emits around 5.8 tons of carbon dioxide per tonne of product. While the calculations are complex and imprecise, Wilker believes that the new glue’s net CO2 emissions could be negative because soya plants absorb CO2. Current manufacturing pricing estimates indicate that soya glue would cost around 30% more to create than ordinary epoxy, although it might still be fairly priced.

Even yet, Wilker believes the soya adhesive may be insufficient for gluing together automotive and aeronautical systems. “If you’re trying to make a plane or a car, you never want it to come apart.”

Journal Reference : Nature DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06335-7

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