A recyclable, compostable and biodegradable adhesive developed by Purdue University researchers has been optioned to Massachusetts-based gluECO Adhesives LLC, which plans an initial line of products in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Traditional adhesives are petroleum-derived, permanent and often toxic. Purdue researchers led by Jonathan Wilker, a professor in Purdue’s College of Science and College of Engineering, created a patent-pending adhesive based on zein, a protein in corn. The adhesive is degradable, nontoxic and tunable, which means it can be adjusted for strength, flexibility and performance in extreme temperature, moisture and high-vibration conditions.
Need for Environmentally Friendly Adhesives
Rachel Freedman and Dan Rosen are co-founders of gluECO Adhesives; Freedman is primary owner and Rosen is the CEO. They realized the need for environmentally friendly adhesives when they prepared to sell their house.
“We were dismayed we could not recycle the hundreds of hardcover books we owned. We found out it was due to the adhesive,” Rosen said. “A few years ago, I came across an article by Jon and had even spoken with him. Rachel and I re-established a relationship with him to learn about his zein-based adhesive.”
The R&D team at gluECO will build on Wilker’s research. Along with zein’s adhesive qualities, products also inherit other qualities of zein, including being a highly effective oxygen and water barrier, and being molded, extruded or spun into filaments.
The company also has entered into an exclusive manufacturing agreement with FloZein Products, the only zein manufacturer in North America. The initial market will be industries and applications that require specialized adhesives.
“Our adhesives will be 100% biobased and food safe. This makes them ideal for any food or pharmaceutical product that may have direct contact with adhesives and packaging. In addition, we are exploring applications where the adhesive acts as a specialty polymer to create composite materials,” Rosen said. “Our R&D team will also develop custom formulations based on inquiries.”
Rosen said gluECO plans to exercise its option and negotiate a license to the zein-based adhesive from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The office manages Purdue University intellectual property, including vetting, applying for protection, marketing and licensing.
“Jon Wilker, my colleagues and I have great respect for Rachel, Dan and their work to address a serious environmental and health problem,” said Joe Kasper, assistant director of business development at OTC. “It is exciting to think about the lives that will be improved by using gluECO’s adhesives in place of traditional petroleum-based adhesives.”