Corn cobs replace petroleum in coatings and plastics
A company that began as a University of Wisconsin research project is preparing to give farmers and forest managers a new market. Dr. Kevin Barnett and his partners started Pyran, which makes chemicals used in paint and coatings including pentanediol. “The exciting part is we can make these paint ingredients from renewable agricultural feedstock like corn cobs and wood chips instead of the petroleum that they’re made from today, and really importantly, we can do this at a lower cost than you can make it from petroleum today.”
Barnett tells Brownfield most people wouldn’t believe the number of products that use petroleum, like paint, vinyl flooring, car components, and more, but his team is now able to make these same chemicals from agricultural products. “People don’t realize, you know, you work with the corn cob or the wood chips all of the time, but there’s a lot of really interesting chemistry inside those, and you can turn them into a lot of really neat stuff.”
Barnett says the chemicals from corn cobs and wood chips are very valuable and cost-competitive. “We’re actually making it cheaper, so you don’t have to choose between environmental and green and your pocketbook. You can actually have both. These higher-priced markets can be very useful to the corn grower or the wood producer in generating more revenue and diversifying their sales.”
Barnett says Pyran plans to expand into other products using corn cobs and woodchips including hard plastics and nylon. For now, they are gearing up for mass production of paint and coating chemicals.