Biodegradable Styrofoam replacement wins Student Soybean Innovation Competition

A soy-based foam took top honors and the 29th annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition.  The competition, put on by the Indiana Soybean Alliance introduced Purdue students to the multi-faceted uses and potential of soybeans. 

StyroSoy is an environmentally friendly, plastic-free alternative to Styrofoam that is biodegradable, compostable, and non-toxic.

Brit Walker, with ADM judged the competition. “They fermented the soy, think about baking bread at home,” he says.  “They used a really novel technology to get that spongey, kind-of Styrofoam shape for thing like packing peanuts.”

The team was also the winner of the People’s Choice Award.

The members of the four-person winning team are Louis Edwards Caceres-Martinez, of Bogota, Colombia, a PhD student at the School of Engineering Technology at Purdue University; Alyssa Choi, a Purdue sophomore studying biological engineering from Addison, Ill.; Valeria Tellez Gallego, a PhD student studying industrial and physical pharmacy from Bogota, Colombia; and Amy Tang, a Purdue sophomore from Sao Paulo, Brazil, studying biological engineering and pharmaceutical sciences.

Walker tells Brownfield the competition explores new uses for soybeans, but it also develops students and fosters innovation.  “They have to check for patents,” he says.  “They have to do a cost analysis to see if it is going to be feasible and it isn’t going to cost three times what the existing products would.  They have to develop a prototype, spending a lot of time in the lab.  And they have to develop a marketing plan.”

Following the contest, ISA works to develop the products and evaluate their long-term feasibility and commercial viability.  Several products that were developed through this competition, like soy candles, soy crayons, and a soy leather conditioner, have been commercially produced.

** Photo is courtesy of the Indiana Soybean Alliance

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