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Friday, August 27, 2010

An Update from the ‘Green News’ Bureau

The other day, we reported on, and commented on, the announcement from Archer Daniels Midland Company regarding the commercial availability of isosorbide as a potential alternative to chemicals used in coatings and other products.

Isosorbide is made from corn, and offers potential as a substitute for Bisphenol A, a key ingredient in the formulation of epoxy resins and, thus, epoxy coatings, ADM said in its announcement.

Well, we had directed a couple of questions in ADM’s direction about this news, but the answers made their way back to us too late to include in our original report. So, we’d like to pass along those questions and the answers.

To see our previous entry on this news, see “Business Implications Will Help Grow the Green Industrial Evolution” in the Blog Archives.

Durability + Design: Are you aware of any R&D or formulation work in products such as epoxy resins or other materials?

Archer Daniels Midland: ADM is working with epoxy resin formulators and end users that have a strong interest in isosorbide-based epoxies for both consumer and industrial applications. Development on resins and suitable curing agents has been under way for much of 2010, and progress is being made.

Durability + Design: BPA comes with health risks; what about isosorbide?

ADM: There is no data to suggest that isosorbide has any adverse health effects. ADM’s isosorbide is made from the starch of the corn kernel. The starch is converted to sorbitol, a sugar alcohol used in personal care, industrial products and pharmaceuticals. The sorbitol is then converted to isosorbide.

So there you have it. Amazing what they can do with corn these days.


Tagged categories: Archer Daniels Midland Company

Comment from Phil Kabza, (8/30/2010, 8:22 AM)

Whether or not the industrial farming of corn in order to produce coatings is a sustainable practice in the wider view is a question that goes far beyond anyone's blog or magazine article. But it is a question we need to keep in mind whenever we rush to label new industry products as "green." "Green" means more than developing products that are bio-based. Industrial corn production at its basics is not considered a sustainable industry by some agricultural critics, who point to such issues as soil breakdown and erosion, aquifer depletion, and related petrochemical fertilizer pollution. But it may be somewhat more "green" than the alternative coatings. Sustainable design advocates have their hands full trying to evaluate products for these reasons. I would feel better if ADM's last comment started with "We've done exhaustive testing of isosorbide, and there is no data ..." The rate of introduction of new chemical compounds into the environment has overwhelmed our ability to evaluate their effects on human and environmental health. Hopefully this one is as simple and benign as its marketers say.

Comment from Fern Henley, (8/31/2010, 8:47 AM)

We can always hope that ADM values establishing their reputation as responsible members of the farming/industrial community more than getting short term monetary returns. That said our nation can provide more wiggle room for users of our water supplies by mounting a public works project called NAWAPA which would collect a portion of the 1/3 of North American run-off water from the Yukon and nearby rivers diverting this to agricultural regions of North America, joining with other rivers and continuing to supply water needs down through the Sonora. (You know we would never have an immigration problem if those in that area had enough water for sanitation, agriculture, and industry.) While Holland's project to protect their nation from sea water took over 50 years and the Three Gorges Dam also took years our national/intercontinental project solving not our worrisome water problems would also solve our unemployment problem a source of great anxiety among veterans, young people and impacting national security. Phil's comment urging consideration of more than surface effects of products in designating them as 'green' is appreciated by all of us who think beyond the moment into the future effects relative to the whole earth as Stewart Brand, editor of Whole Earth Catalogue, did in 2008 when he called nuclear energy a necessity for sustainable growth. There is still time for our nation to make this choice to be truly green and make the deserts bloom if we can find the backbone to do so.

Comment from Joseph Schinner, (9/1/2010, 11:13 AM)

Please, Please, Please, Let's not have criticisms about the above comments being inappropriate for D+D for "lack of true science", "what's this got to do with Building design and maintenance", etc. a la ACS' Chem. & Eng. News endless letters debating what belongs in its pages (undefined "science" vs. undefined "opinion and politics". This Blog forum is becoming enlightening so far with ideas expressed fairly concisely (excuse the doubly) and further (and farther) reaching into ideas- perfect or not- that could touch us all and more importantly at least try to go from A to C thru B and not just stay mired in the cleverest "bumper sticker" sound bite that closes reasoning because it reinforces a preconceived notion. There is a reason this Blog topic got a better response than some of the well posed- yet unanswered- valid topical questions.

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