Castor oil may take on new duties
Researchers foresee a multitude of uses for biosensors.
Midland, Mich.—Researchers are now looking to improve the properties of plant oils so they can substitute for petrochemical-based raw materials. And the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is interested enough to award Dow Chemical Co. nearly $5 million to research how to make plastics and chemicals from renewable plant oils such as castor seed oil.
The project brings together Dow; Castor Oil, Inc. in Plainview, Texas; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, Calif.
“Success with this research will allow us to produce new products for our customers. In addition to helping meet customer needs, these products will have the advantage of being produced from a renewable, crop-based resource,” said Carolyn Fritz, global business director for Dow’s Industrial Biotechnology business.
The plant-oil award is among six major awards totaling $30 million from the DOE to develop process technology for the production of chemicals, plastics, materials, and other products from plant matter and natural waste materials and to establish university education and training programs in bioproducts.
Castor is already an established industrial crop in countries other than the U.S. Castor oil is used in paints, coatings, and specialty nylons but in its current form cannot produce properties suitable for wide use in plastics and chemicals. Dow will work on the chemistry of the oils and work with Castor Oil, Inc. and the WRRC to develop new castor varieties and improved agricultural technologies.
More information about the DOE’s bioproducts initiative is available at www.oit.doe/gov/agriculture. Other projects receiving DOE funding include research to convert soy seeds to adhesives, resins, and composites; advanced membrane separation technology; crop harvesting and storage technology; and the optimization of grain for bioproduct processing. Three DOE education grants will establish multidisciplinary education and training for grad students in the area of bioproducts technologies.