Turning plants into paint

Harvest Collier, Kylee Hyzer and Kyle Anderson

Paving the road for less U.S. dependence on foreign oil are Kylee Hyzer and Kyle Anderson, Chem’05, whose research at UMR could lead to a soybean-based replacement for the petroleum used in roadway paint.

Their project, called “Plants into Paint,” involves the use of a certain oil found in soybeans. Hyzer, a junior chemistry major with minors in math and biology, and Anderson, now a graduate student studying polymer and coating chemistry, are working to refine the oil found in the soybean and to chemically modify it for use in the acrylics normally used in road coating.

The students also hope to keep the process efficient and economical enough for industrial use. They want the process to be inexpensive and environmentally friendly. “If it is expensive, no one will use it,” Hyzer says. In addition, current methods of producing the paint with petroleum produce a great deal of waste. Hyzer and Anderson want to reduce this waste by creating a one-step process that won’t be affected by temperature.

Soybeans are one of the most renewable resources in Missouri and are “recognized as one of the strongest agricultural products in the state,” says Harvest Collier, professor of chemistry and the project advisor. Increasing the need for soybeans will help the Missouri agricultural industry, Collier adds.

While this OURE project ultimately might help one industry become less dependent on petroleum, it’s also teaching Anderson and Hyzer to be more independent. “OURE prepares you for the world outside academia,” says Anderson, adding that both he and Hyzer were surprised by how much independence UMR gave them. Collier expects them to come up with methods and processes on their own. Hyzer is most impressed by “how much trust and resources UMR allows the students to have to conduct research.”

Hyzer is most impressed by “how much trust and resources UMR allows the students to have to conduct research.”

The students are also encouraged to learn from graduate students and to seek help from other professors. Anderson notes, “It seems that people are always willing to help out.”

Collier adds that “the research offers students the opportunity to learn about problem-solving from a fundamental chemical research perspective and also from a practical industrial application perspective.”

By Jen Haslag, a junior psychology major and a columnist for the Missouri Miner.

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