Moving Toward a Sustainable Future with Soy-Based Products
Soy-based dust suppressant can improve human health and the environment
Those who reside in rural areas, where gravel roads span for miles, are no strangers to dust. This also rings true on mining and drilling sites. These dust-prone areas can have adverse effects on health and can even disrupt crops and the environment.
The market across the U.S. for dust control is large, with over 1.3 million miles of unpaved roads. Those living and working in areas with a lot of road dust understandably want to avoid the accompanying health and environmental issues, so they spend over $400 million annually to mitigate dust.
Jim Bahr, senior research engineer and lab manager at North Dakota State University, has teamed up with the United Soybean Board, North Dakota Soybean Council and BioBlend Renewable Resources to develop a dust suppressant that is not only better for the environment, but offers a renewable, biobased approach with soybean oil as an ingredient.
Suppressing dust sustainably
“About 80% of the market right now is using salt-based dust suppressants. However, due to the corrosive nature of those products, we’ve seen interest in a biobased material that’s not corrosive,” said Bahr.
The most commonly used dust suppressants on the market today include salts such as magnesium chloride, can erode into adjacent soils from roadways and result in environmental buildup when washed away by rainfall.
The new soy-based, nontoxic dust suppressant is synthesized by combining soybean oil with glycerol (from biodiesel waste) in a chemical reaction. This combination creates a nontoxic, biodegradable and noncorrosive dust suppressant material. Bahr said the formulation includes about 25% soybean oil per gallon once it’s emulsified with water.
“We’ve seen quite a few advantages in our biobased dust suppressant compared to the alternatives on the market. Our product addresses the corrosivity issue, is environmentally friendly and resists buildup in the groundwater,” Bahr said.
Moving toward commercialization
Bahr has teamed up with BioBlend Renewable Resources, a company that formulates biodegradable and sustainable lubricants, oils, greases and other products to market the new biobased dust suppressant. The product, EPIC EL, will be available to select partners this spring.
Todd Allison, product manager for BioBlend, said they are in the final stages of developing the dust suppressant and anxious to get the product on the market.
“We have been perfecting and tweaking the product to bring it to the full manufacturing stage,” he said. “We’ve conducted many pilot test batches and have tested the product on different roads and in various conditions. We’ve then evaluated the pros and cons of each application.”
Allison said they now feel they have a soy-based dust suppressant that adheres to the particles on a road or substrate to create a strong ester-link bond.
As this product becomes available, it will benefit more than just those living in areas with unpaved roads.
“Our products are environmentally conscious, and the interest is growing in all different sectors. Counties and municipalities are by far the No. 1 interest, but also mining, fertilizer manufacturers and even the equestrian market,” Allison said.
Allison reiterated that these products are not only nontoxic, but they are sustainable and renewable.
“Every year, farmers are planting soybeans, which can then ultimately turn into an ingredient for this dust suppressant,” he said. “This truly is a renewable product.”