One recent development in the coatings industry is the use of soybean oil in manufacturing. Soybean oil has been competing with other oils, particularly linseed and tall oils, as a major ingredient in alkyd resins for years. It is dissolved in carrier solvents to make oil-based paints. But there are new technologies funded by the United Soybean Board (USB), which uses soybean oil in both oil-based alkyd and waterborne paints.

Research funded by the USB has resulted in a modifying soybean oil that can be used as an active diluent for alkyd coatings. Soybean oil, as it is commercially available in an unrefined or refined, edible-grade state, is a fairly stable, non-volatile and slow-drying oil used to provide curing characteristics desirable in a base for coatings. Additional research is under way to increase drying rates while reducing the rates of unwanted color development in soybean-oil-based alkyd paint by using UV-curing. The USB also has funded the development of a latex paint additive that promotes film formation at ambient temperatures as the paint dries.

"The research efforts that have gone into alkyd paints and coatings have been extensive," said Tom Doyle, commercialization manager at Omni Tech International and technical advisor for the USB. "But there is still more to do in terms of waterborne paints. That's the next market for soy to penetrate, especially since these waterborne paints continue to experience increased popularity, particularly with do-it-yourselfers."

The USB has funded research to develop a soy-based waterborne paint. Waterborne paints have a commanding share of the market, are less expensive and lower in odor than alkyd-containing solventborne paints. Part of the more recent increase in market share is due to government regulations regarding emissions of VOCs. Using soybean oil in these applications helps reduce the amount of VOC emissions.

Another market that USB-funded research is targeting is industrial original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coatings. Here, the focus is on high solids, safe solventborne coatings, and water-reduced baking coatings, all containing soybean oil. Although little research has been done in powder coatings, it is a market that is quickly threatening liquid industrial coatings. Its popularity is expected to increase as VOC emissions and technology advancements become the target in performance, handling and economics.

The majority of USB-funded research projects have focused on developing soy-based compounds useful in making architectural paints to create a strong foundation of technology in this industry. Various methods of modifying soy are being examined, with expected differences in how soy will be used, from an additive in existing latex formulations to a completely novel polymer formulation based on soy.

"The coatings and inks industry is a huge market with countless opportunities for soy. With continued support from the United Soybean Board and the soybean checkoff, new technologies and new products are certain to be successful in this industry," Doyle said.

The United Soybean Board, composed of 62 U.S. soybean farmers, oversees soybean-checkoff-funded investments in foreign market development, human and animal health and nutrition, research and development of new uses, and agronomic research in soybeans. Contact USB at 888/235.4332 or