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Soy Biodiesel Byproduct Could Enhance 3D Printing Industry

In a development that could advance the 3D printing industry, researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered a way to transform a significant waste output from soy biodiesel plants into a valuable resource.

The team, led by Dr. Jagannadh Satyavolu, has developed a process to convert matter organic non-glycerol (MONG), a byproduct of biodiesel production, into copolymers suitable for 3D printing filaments. This innovative approach not only offers an environmentally friendly solution to waste management but also presents a new avenue for value addition within the biodiesel industry.

The global demand for  has led to an increase in biodiesel production, resulting in a significant amount of waste byproducts such as MONG. Traditionally, MONG has been landfilled, posing  and economic inefficiencies. However, the study presents a two-fold solution: a method to stabilize MONG for use in 3D printing and a reduction in the synthetic polymer content of natural fiber composites (NFC).

The findings are published in the Journal of Bioresources and Bioproducts.

The researchers characterized soy MONG and evaluated its potential as a copolymer to produce 3D printing filaments. They focused on improving the thermal stability of MONG through two pretreatments: acid treatment and a combination of acid and peroxide.

The latter resulted in a stabilized paste with decreased soap content, increased crystallinity, and the formation of low molecular weight small chain fatty acids, making it an ideal candidate for copolymerization with thermoplastic polymers.

The study's findings indicate that acid and acid + peroxide treatments effectively split soap, reduce water solubility, and increase glycerol content in MONG. The treatments also facilitated the oxidation of fatty acids and the formation of small chain , which are more suitable for 3D printing applications. Notably, the acid + peroxide treatment led to an increase in  and oxirane concentration, suggesting successful epoxidation, a key factor for improving the thermal stability of MONG.

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