Ethox Chemicals Seeks Opportunity with Soy to Increase Performance

Companies are continually discovering the benefits of soybean oil or meal as ingredients for products ranging from industrial solvents to wood adhesives. There are already more than 1,000 listings in the United Soybean Board’s Soy Products Guide. A recent addition to this guide is Ethox Chemicals. Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Ethox manufactures over 500 different specialty chemicals for a worldwide customer base. With much of its research and development activity focused on soy, the company is on the forefront of soy technology.

USB communications staff spoke with Jim Tanner, Synthesis Laboratory Manager at Ethox, about his work on the development of soy products and, in particular, a soy-based dispersant called E-Sperse® for use in the aerospace industry. Read on to find out what led Ethox toward using soy as an ingredient and what future products may be to come.

USB: What is E-Sperse, and what does it do?

Tanner: E-Sperse is Ethox Chemical’s line of dispersants, a type of chemical that improves the separation of particles to prevent settling or clumping of paints, coatings and inks. E-Sperse 4754® is a new, natural oil-based dispersant that is effective in dispersing both inorganic and organic pigments into a variety of solvent and resin-based coating formulations. E-Sperse 4754 has been shown to be especially effective for difficult-to-disperse solar reflective metal oxide pigments in urethane aircraft paint formulations.

USB: What led Ethox to develop E-Sperse 4754 and the soy technology it employs?

Tanner: The development of nearly all of our soy-based products has come from specific customer requests. For example, we were presented with a customer challenge of achieving higher loading of clay filler in soybean oil for an ink application. To make a long story short, we discovered that the triethanolamine neutralized/esterified malleated soybean oil was an excellent dispersant for this clay in soybean oil. This led to the commercialization of E-Sperse® JT 85, a dispersant for clay in soybean oil. JT 85 is made up of roughly 90% soybean oil, and up to 40% higher loadings can be achieved.

USB: What qualities of soybean oil make it a good ingredient for dispersants and coatings? Are there any cost savings?

Tanner: There are several benefits of soybean oil. It has a higher molecular weight than typical “tail groups” in dispersants. This results in higher molar volume dispersants, which are much more effective in separating and stabilizing pigment particles. The soy tail group is also soluble in a variety of solvents and resins. Soybean oil is inexpensive and results in substantial cost savings.

USB: Is E-Sperse commercially available? 

Tanner: E-Sperse JT 85 and 4754 are commercially available. We have other dispersants based on the same chemistry in evaluation.

USB: What is your rough estimate on the size of the market for dispersants with soy for coatings and personal care products?

Tanner: A rough estimate is 7 million pounds per year for coatings and 2 million pounds per year for personal care. 

USB: How much soy do you currently use in formulating your products during a year? What do you anticipate it may be like five years from now?

Tanner: Our current volume is 500,000 pounds per year, but we expect significant growth. A five-year projection would be 5 million pounds per year.

USB: Do you continue to experiment with soy in other products?

Tanner: The largest part of my R&D time is currently spent on soy-based products. We have developed other derivatives of 4754 that are currently in evaluation. We have developed soy-based cleaners and lubricants and are currently exploring opportunities in personal care.

Find out more uses for soy technology by visiting soynewuses.org, and contact USB to get in touch with experts who can help you create soy products, use soybean oil and meal as product ingredients and answer any questions you have.

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