College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Clean and green

A number of products you use in your home contain resins. Resins are materials that act as a glue between polymers, and polymers make up synthetic organic materials like plastics and fibers. Chris Williams, a professor in civil engineering, is working on a collaborative project that could replace resins with cleaner, more efficient biomaterials.

“It is clearly an improvement for health reasons to replace prior materials that are known carcinogens … These are wood products that have been used in home construction as well as wood flooring and furniture,” Williams said.

Williams, along with a team of civil and chemical engineers, is substituting the biopolymer polyacrylated glycerol for common resins in materials like fiberboard and plywood. The team wants to show that these substitutes are cost-effective and performance-enhancing. Their research includes the commercial development of polyacrylated glycerol to replace other resins.

This work is a joint effort between Williams and Eric Cochran, a professor in chemical engineering. Williams says this interdepartmental research is crucial to developing the safest and most effective substitutes to replace current industry standards.