As interest in environmentally friendly products for residential and commercial settings increases, soybeans are being used in a variety of applications — from carpet backing and soy-based heating oil to colorful paint for the walls. Here are highlights of some of these advancements:

  • A Crop Of Colors — The paint company Sherwin-Williams has teamed up with the soybean industry to develop a new line of soy-hybrid paint. The paint, which will be available in a variety of colors in gloss and semi-gloss finishes, contains the same raw materials and processing techniques as traditional paint, but replaces some of the petroleum ingredients with soybean oil.

    The soy component in the paint makes it environmentally friendly, and the paint cleans up easily with soap and water.

    Duke Rao, associate director, polymers and materials technology for Sherwin-Williams, says, “The soy-hybrid paint is very ‘green’ or eco-friendly, which is an advantage.” He adds that Sherwin-Williams was interested in soy as a component due to its low viscosity, lack of harmful emissions and the fact that it's a low-cost diluent.

    The paint has received good reviews from customers, and Rao says, “The soy-hybrid paint has higher gloss than latex paint, excellent adhesion, early moisture resistance and the appearance and feel of oil-based paint.”

    As this new product becomes commercially available, Sherwin-Williams says that with formulation adjustments, they plan to add more soy to their future products, as well.

  • Heat for the Home — The little beige bean is helping heat homes this winter thanks to Bioheat, a soy-based heating oil developed by the soybean checkoff-funded National Biodiesel Board (NBB).

    Made from a combination of biodiesel and generic heating oil, Bioheat fuel is a superior product for the environment, as well as for the overall operational enhancement of a heating system.

    BIOHEAT IS FAVORED because it's cleaner burning than traditional heating oils. Studies have shown that Bioheat reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 20% and sulfur oxide emissions have been lowered by up to 83% when used with a 20% Bioheat blend. Bioheat also produces less smoke and odor than conventional heating oil, and it has enhanced fuel lubricity and a higher flash point than conventional No. 2 heating oil.

    Looking ahead, inclusion of 5% biodiesel (B5) in oil heat will be the overall objective of both NBB and the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) as the market progresses.

    “USB supports new uses for soybeans, and biodiesel inclusion in heating oil is a great chance to expand the biodiesel market,” says Todd Allen, USB New Uses Committee chair and soybean farmer from West Memphis, AR.

  • Under Your Feet — Soybeans are also moving from the field to the floor as a soy-based carpet backing developed by Universal Textile Technologies (UTT). BioCel is the product manufactured by UTT, and the carpet backing contains between 10% and 14% soy oil, which is used as a replacement for petroleum.

    UTT has been working on biobased polymers in carpet backing technology since 1999. Biobased polymers from soybeans become an integral part of the carpet backing, locking in the carpet fibers.

    The soy-based carpet backing is able to withstand high-traffic areas in places such as schools, churches and hotels. Another advantage of using the polyurethane backing is a longer life cycle for the carpet due to it being able to endure repeated cleanings over the years.

    Presently, similar backing manufactured by UTT is being used for artificial turf installed anywhere from putting greens to sports stadiums all over the world. In the future, this soy backing may be coming to a hotel near you, and may be available in carpets for the home, as well.