A recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable adhesive developed by Purdue University researchers has been optioned to Massachusetts-based gluECO Adhesives LLC. The company plans to launch an initial line of products in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Purdue researchers led by Jonathan Wilker, a professor in Purdue’s College of Science and College of Engineering, created a patent-pending adhesive based on zein, a protein in corn. The adhesive is degradable, nontoxic, and tunable, which means it can be adjusted for strength, flexibility, and performance in extreme temperature, moisture, and high-vibration conditions.
Rachel Freedman and Dan Rosen are co-founders of gluECO Adhesives (Freedman is primary owner and Rosen is CEO). They realized the need for environmentally friendly adhesives when they prepared to sell their house.
“We were dismayed we could not recycle the hundreds of hardcover books we owned,” Rosen said. “We found out it was due to the adhesive. A few years ago, I came across an article by Jon and had even spoken with him. Rachel and I re-established a relationship with him to learn about his zein-based adhesive.”
The R&D team at gluECO will build on Wilker’s research. Zein reportedly imparts additional properties beyond adhesion, including being a highly effective oxygen and water barrier, as well as the ability to be molded, extruded, or spun into filaments. The company also has entered into an exclusive manufacturing agreement with FloZein Products, the only zein manufacturer in North America. The initial market will be industries and applications that require specialized adhesives.
“Our adhesives will be 100% bio-based and food safe,” Rosen said. “This makes them ideal for any food or pharmaceutical product that may have direct contact with adhesives and packaging. In addition, we are exploring applications where the adhesive acts as a specialty polymer to create composite materials. Our R&D team will also develop custom formulations based on inquiries.”
Rosen said gluECO plans to exercise its option and negotiate a license to the zein-based adhesive from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). The office manages Purdue University intellectual property, including vetting, applying for protection, marketing, and licensing.
“Jon Wilker, my colleagues and I have great respect for Rachel, Dan and their work to address a serious environmental and health problem,” said Joe Kasper, assistant director of business development at OTC. “It is exciting to think about the lives that will be improved by using gluECO’s adhesives in place of traditional petroleum-based adhesives.”