August 15, 2011 12:00AM
Ten years ago, researchers at the Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) at Pittsburg State University developed a sustainable form of concrete that is based on soybean oil, a renewable source with a big economic imprint on the agriculture of the region. When the Tyler Research Center was built in 2007, they even used it to make tiles for an entryway to help demonstrate a practical use for the new material.
Now, with a U.S. patent finally awarded for the unique substance and the rising popularity of green construction, the scientists believe their new concrete is a product that's time has come.
In cooperation with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, the KPRC is now searching for manufacturing and distribution partners for its "polymer concrete," which uses a soybean-based polyurethane (rather than other expensive or volatile petrochemical resins) as a binding material. The MSMC supported the initial research, and has helped fund the patenting costs.
Dr. Andrew Myers, executive director of the PSU Business and Technology Institute and the KPRC, said the concrete is a sustainable alternative to traditional mixes.
"This is definitely a unique product. It's a technology we've had waiting for a partner, and its uses are endless," he said. "We've spent a fair amount of time going to conferences and meeting with potential partners."
One of the advantages of the concrete is its incredible strength. Testing shows it to be 10 times stronger than most concrete available today. Myers said the concrete would be ideal for pothole replacements on roads, or even countertops and flooring in homes.
Zoran Petrovic, research director at the BTI and KRPC, said the only thing comparable is a blend of concrete being developed by an Italian company.
"Some of the splendid buildings in Dubai have been made with a variation of this, and they're calling it 'stone,'" he said. "What is unique is what ours is made of and what you can do with it. It's flexible enough to create anything from marble for construction to even jewelry. I can see a lot of opportunities here. It's just up to the imagination."
For more information, contact Dr. Myers at 620-235-6120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.