Coatings / Formulators / Manufacturers / Finished Adhesives and Sealants / Green Products/Applications / Raw Materials and Chemicals

Advancing Adhesives: Water-Based Polyurethane Goes Green

Soy oil replaces petroleum in water-based polyurethane coatings and adhesives.

March 1, 2013

Battelle scientists have reportedly invented a novel, water-based polyurethane unlike any other—environmentally responsible, cost-effective, soy-based and free of N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) solvent. This new polyurethane has less odor than its petroleum-based counterpart and can be used in a variety of coatings and adhesives.

The product can prove to be environmentally superior on two levels. It uses soy oil instead of petroleum to produce the polyol needed to make standard polyurethanes. In addition, water-based polyurethanes must have NMP added during the manufacturing process in order to lower viscosity. This proprietary formulation eliminates the need for that expensive solvent, a breakthrough that can reduce costs, handling, reporting regulations, vapors, and pollution.

The polyurethane is a product of research fostered in Battelle’s formal mentoring program. It was funded by Ohio soybean farmers through the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC).

“Once again, our friends at Battelle have developed a remarkable new product that takes advantage of the versatility of soybean oil,” said Keith Roberts, OSC New Uses Committee chair and soybean farmer from Marion County, Ohio. “Our investment in research to develop new products made from renewable, environmentally friendly soybeans benefits everyone, including Ohio and all U.S. soybean farmers.”

Both proof-of-principle and lab-scale testing were established at Battelle; Ram Lalgudi, senior research scientist, presented a paper on the subject at conferences in 2012. Lalgudi mentored Researcher Phil Denen, a young scientist at Battelle who started the idea and worked on weekends and off-work hours to develop it. Battelle has intellectual property based on the product and has filed for a patent.

“Yes, this new product is important for the consumer because it’s environmentally friendly and does the same job at a comparable price as older polyurethanes without using volatile organic solvents such as NMP,” said Rick Heggs, senior Marketing manager at Battelle. “But for manufacturers, this represents a leap forward. Eliminating NMP makes life a lot easier.”

Applications for the new product include all kinds of paints, inks, top coatings, and seal coatings, and will also be valuable in the peel-and-go market and a variety of adhesives. It meets Chemical Agent Resistant Coatings (CARC) standards, which means it will be usable by the military. Battelle will reportedly seek licensing partners to scale up the product to mass manufacturing.

Reportedly the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.5 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including eight national laboratories for which Battelle has a significant management role on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the UK. For more information, visit

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