Bernie Tao suspected soy biodiesel was good for more than just
powering cars and trucks, but little did the Purdue University agricultural engineer realize that another potential use
was the pavement underneath those vehicles.
quest to identify new biodiesel uses, Tao began comparing notes with friend and
Purdue civil engineer Jason Weiss. Some
six years of research later, the two have developed a repellant that greatly
reduces the ability of water and other compounds to penetrate concrete and
cause cracking and chipping under winter freeze/thaw conditions. The sealant
shows promise as an environmentally friendly alternative to similar products
applied to concrete during road construction.
a very large market for sealants of this kind,” Tao says. “This application
alone could consume every ounce of biodiesel we produce.”
“And it doesn't easily wear off or leach
out,” Weiss adds. “Unlike other materials, concern about runoff or overspray is
reduced because the sealant is biodegradable.”
project is one example of how Purdue Agriculture teams up
with companies, organizations, foundations and government agencies to tackle
public problems on everything from crop science to consumer behavior.
Weiss’s research might have reached a dead end, so to speak, were it not for
the support of the Indiana Soybean Alliance,
Irving Materials Inc. and the Indiana Department of Transportation. That support helped cover research expenses and additional
technical expertise. It also provided the Purdue engineers access to public
testing the sealant on U.S. 231 in Lafayette and on a highly traveled street in
Fishers,” Tao says. “This research couldn’t have moved forward without the
support of our collaborators, as well as the Town of Fishers and Berns Construction.”
2012 fiscal year, Purdue Agriculture will receive $61.6 million in sponsored
funds from all sources for 1,219 research projects.
from industry and foundations alone represents $6.7 million, more than double
what industry and foundations provided in 2001. Collaborators range from large
international corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Nestlé to smaller
regional companies like Hoosier Energy.
Purdue researchers discovered a soy biodiesel-based sealant that reduces cracking and chipping of concrete during winter freeze/thaw conditions.
dollars are the lifeblood of research at land-grant universities like Purdue,
says Karen Plaut,
director of Purdue Agricultural Research Programs and associate dean of agriculture. While tax dollars offset
faculty salaries and some infrastructure, the financial support from
collaborators makes the research itself possible.
research usually involves an issue a collaborator brings to Purdue. It might be
a question about a product in development or a problem the collaborator hopes
can be solved through scientific inquiry.
research begins, the collaborator signs a sponsored research agreement that
outlines the terms of the partnership with Purdue Agriculture and preserves the
integrity of the research. Purdue Agriculture maintains a right to publish
research findings, while collaborators maintain a right to have proprietary
information kept confidential.
for One and One for All
says the sponsored research program works well.
benefits from these collaborations,” she says. “Purdue Agriculture is able to
do important research that helps the people of Indiana and around the world.
Collaborators are able to get unbiased, science-based solutions to issues they
bring to us. And Purdue students often get to work with collaborators, which
sometimes leads to jobs after graduation.”
Hochstetler, Hoosier Energy’s vice president of power production, says
supporting Purdue research has been money well spent. He says research
involving poplar trees by Rick Meilan,
associate professor of molecular tree physiology, has provided Hoosier Energy
important insights into future electric generation.
Dr. Meilan is conducting has the potential to develop a woody biomass crop that
may be economically feasible to turn into a renewable source of electricity,”
holds true for the research by Tao and Weiss, says Ryan West, director of new
uses for the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
evaluating the concrete sealant for commercial launch and looking into various
other applications in the concrete business, such as brick and mortar, and
aggregate applications,” West says.
the process, serving the people of Indiana.
a tree in your tank? Ethanol research centers on poplars