Grant awards to fund plant-based materials research

Special to the Morning Sun /
The Kansas Polymer Research Center is housed in the Tyler Research Center at Pittsburg State University.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Scientists at the Kansas Polymer Research Center, housed in the Tyler Research Center at Pittsburg State University, were awarded three grants totaling almost $150,000 to fund research on the production of polymers from soybean oil.

The awards are funded by the Kansas Soybean Commission, which was established in 1977 to improve the profit potential of Kansas soybean farmers. They will support the work of Jasna Djonlagic, Ram Gupta, and Santi Santra, who will be assisted by student researchers.

Djonlagic’s project will focus on replacing harmful solvents that are typically used in paints and adhesives with water.

“This would obviously have a positive ‘green’ impact in the industry and is also hopeful of reducing costs,” said Tim Dawsey, executive director of the KPRC.

Gupta is researching the production of adhesives and sealants from plant resources.

“The huge, and growing, adhesives and sealants market is critical to a broad range of applications, from paper and packaging to automotive and aviation,” Dawsey said. “Moving these traditional petroleum-based products to more plant-based materials will be a strong positive step toward diversification of our regional economy by leveraging our agricultural roots.”

Santra’s project is focused on a method to simplify the process of taking soybean oil and making a raw material for use in producing polymers.

“By simplifying the process, it is hoped that his approach will also reduce the cost of the raw material and make it much more attractive to industry,” Dawsey said.

Dawsey said these grants are yet another recognition of the Kansas Polymer Research Center’s leadership in developing new bio-derived materials for a broad range of applications.

“The scientists at the KPRC have been on the cutting edge of plant-based polymer research for over 25 years now, and it is energizing to see this continued vote of confidence from a leading agricultural organization such as the Kansas Soybean Commission,” he said.