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Multi-purpose soybeans
Sameer Chhabra
Soybeans are already renowned for their many uses. Now, processors might be able to use modified soybeans that are high in linoleic acid to potentially reduce crude oil consumption when making polyol, polyurethane, coating, resin, paint, and epoxy.

High-linoleic acid soybean oil is sustainable and renewable, and can be processed into more environmentally friendly polyurethane — in comparison to the product that typically relies on crude oil.

University of Guelph Plant Agriculture professor Istvan Rajcan derived the oil by experimenting with regular soybeans to maximize their linoleic acid content. The modified soybeans showed an almost 18 per cent increase in linoleic acid, the highest ever reported, allowing producers to increase the amount of oil derived from the soybeans.

Rajcan has already begun collaborating with a handful of interested industry parties that have come forward to further examine the high-linoleic acid soybeans.

The development of Rajcan’s oil followed the late professor Gary Ablett’s early efforts in deriving new soybean varieties with varying levels of linolenic acid, which was intended to produce oil that does not produce trans fatty acids.

Ablett first modified soybeans using ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS). EMS induced a genomic change in the soybeans, allowing Rajcan to selectively breed soybeans high in linoleic acid.

The modified soybeans were next pressed into oil that was processed into polyols. The oil can be used to create foam car seats, cushions, dashboards, and other interior automotive parts.

“We could reduce the amount of crude oil that’s used for polyurethane products, replace it with renewable oil that comes from soybeans, and everybody along the value or production chain stands to benefit,” says Rajcan.

Funding for this project was provided by Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the University of Guelph’s Catalyst Centre. •

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Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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