OSU: Metals industry can use sugar to reduce toxics

Oregon State University researchers have found that sugar can replace some toxic resins used in metals manufacturing.

Oregon State University researchers have found that sugar can replace some toxic resins used in metals manufacturing. 

Oregon State University researchers have found that simple sugar could replace toxic binders in the multi-billion dollar metals foundry industry.

Experts in adhesion science at the OSU College of Forestry have discovered that sugar could replace toxic resins used in the process of making molds for metals products. Its use would cost less than other binders and is much more environmentally friendly.

The research comes from the lab of Kaichang Li, OSU professor of wood science and engineering.

Li's work with Columbia Forest Products to use the adhesive power in mussels to devise a new, non-toxic plywood adhesive earned him the 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry award from the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2010, he led the discovery of an earth-friendly tape adhesive.

“We were surprised that simple sugar could bind sand together so strongly,” Li said in a press release.

Li and an OSU faculty research assistant, Jian Huang, identified combinations of sugar, soy flour and hydrolyzed starch — or even just sugar by itself — that should work effectively as a binder in sand molds for making various types of metal parts.

The "sweet" binder technology is ready for more applied research and testing and the university is seeking investors and industrial partners to commercialize it.

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