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NJIT patent may be able to replace BPA, make consumer products safer

New Jersey Institute of Technology

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IMAGE: Michael Jaffe, a professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT, has received a patent for a chemical derived from sugar. This new material is a derivative of isosorbide and may be... view more

Credit: NJIT

Michael Jaffe, a professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT, has received a patent for a chemical derived from sugar. This new material is a derivative of isosorbide and may be able to replace bisphenol A (BPA) in a number of consumer products, including the lining of tin cans.

Jaffe has been developing the material in conjunction with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) in an effort to promote and create new, commercially attractive, sustainable chemistries from wider uses of corn. This new sugar derivative can be obtained from corn. This is the first patent in a series filed by ICPB and NJIT to develop applications and markets for sugar-based chemistry.

"Exposure to bisphenol A has been linked to health problems and we feel confident that this is a safe alternative," said Rodney Williamson, director of research and development for the board.

Much attention has recently focused on BPA, which has been known to have estrogenic properties since the 1930s. BPA is widely used in processes that result in the lining for tin cans and key ingredients in plastics ranging from baby bottles to nail polish.

Unfortunately, the chemical bonds that link BPA in polymer structures are not completely stable and the polymer may slowly decay with time, releasing small amounts of it into materials with which it comes into contact, such as food or water. Recent studies have shown the widespread presence of tiny amounts of BPA in the environment. Even at minute levels BPA may still exert estrogen-like effects on living organisms.

The new invention is an epoxy resin. These are polymers widely used as adhesives, paints and as coatings to protect food in cans. This invention describes a renewable resource epoxy, derived, for example, from isosorbide, a sustainable chemical that can be synthesized from corn starch. Both components of the epoxy--the resin and the hardener--are from water-soluble, plant-derived chemistries. The epoxy is cured by baking at an elevated temperature.

"We are viewing sugars as a chemical feedstock to produce new monomers, polymers and additives for a broad range of biomedical industrial applications," said Jaffe. "Sugar-based chemicals are attractive because they are generally regarded as safe, are a renewable resource and can be made readily available at competitive pricing.

Isosorbide offers molecular geometry and chemical functionality compatible with many existing commercial chemistries."

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Jaffe is an expert in material science and high-performance polymers. Prior to joining NJIT in 1998, he was a research fellow with Hoechst Celanese, which he joined upon completion of his doctorate in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1967.

Jaffe is a member of the National Research Council (National Materials Advisory Board) and has been named a National Associate of the National Research Council. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering), a Fellow of the North American Thermal Analysis Society and a Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. He has authored more than 75 technical publications, 18 book chapters and 17 patents.

Sharing the patent are research team members: Anthony J. East, PhD, research professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT; Yi Zhang, PhD, an NJIT alum who received his doctorate in biomedical engineering at NJIT; Luiz Catalani, PhD, former visiting professor at NJIT, now professor of chemistry, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Iowa Corn Promotion Board works to develop and defend markets, fund research and provide education about corn and corn products. For more information, visit www.iowacorn.org.

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