Developing smart biomaterials for coating from low-value plant oils. Hard wax such as carnauba wax (~$3 lb.) is a highly demanded material in many industries, including food, automobile, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. The global carnauba wax market size was USD 246.0 million in 2015, and is expected to grow significantly over the next nine years. The wax is mainly produced by mechanically recovering the coating from the leaves of one type of palm tree that is almost exclusively grown in northeastern Brazil, and >90 percent of carnauba wax in the US is imported from Brazil. A vegetable oil-based hard wax alternative would potentially reduce the price and improve the availability of such natural wax significantly and loosen up the dependence on the limited source.
Impact of Research
- Greener and safer materials to improve sustainability and significantly reduce environmental impact (biodegradable–recyclable–reduced waste disposal).
- Added functions to improve food safety and quality (antimicrobial–adjustable gas permeability–freshness and extended shelf-life).
- Expanded applications which add value to agriculture-related products, byproducts, and waste (low-value oil, waste oils–high-value ingredients in coating, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc.).
- Development of high-value low-temperature-curable resins using vegetable oils as the feedstock for medium-density fiberboard and wood coating.
- Utilizing fermentation technologies for producing value-added products such as special fatty acids from waste and byproducts of crop processing.