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Invisible Strengthening

Soybean hulls before and after purification: nanocrystals for polymers

DANIEL PASQUINISoybean hulls before and after purification: nanocrystals for polymersDANIEL PASQUINI

A waste product from the production of vegetable oil, soybean hulls, can also be used to reinforce plastics, in addition to serving as cattle feed. In the form of cellulose nanocrystals, it can be added to polymers to make them stronger, according to a study led by Professor Daniel Pasquini of the Institute of Chemistry at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), in the state of Minas Gerais. “The nanocrystals can replace the vegetable fibers currently added to conventional composites,” says Pasquini. The advantage is that, even using less material, the composite is just as strong or even stronger. “In the case of polymers that must be transparent, such as packaging films, the addition of the nanocrystals does not effect their transparency.” Conventional composites result in an opaque material. To obtain the nanocrystals, researchers use a hydrolysis process in which the cellulose fiber is dipped in an acid solution and then purified. The nanocrystals remain. The study is in the March 2013 issue of the journal Industrial Crops and Product.