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Biodegradable corn-based adhesive is non-toxic, with tunable properties

| By Scott Jenkins

A new class of adhesives being developed by the startup gluECO Adhesives LLC (Ashburnham, Mass.; is based on corn proteins and has a host of environmentally friendly properties, such as biodegradability and the ability to be easily removed in paper repulping processes. The patent-pending technology behind the adhesives was invented in the laboratory of Jon Wilker, a professor and researcher at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.; It has been licensed for commercial development by gluECO.

The adhesives are based on zein, a protein extracted from a byproduct of corn milling. The zein-based adhesives are non-toxic, biodegradable, and have been certified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, the company says the zein adhesives can easily be separated from the slurry of recycled paper that is intended for the production of new paper.

The properties of the adhesives are tunable, which means the end products can be adjusted for strength, flexibility and performance in extreme temperature, as well as moisture and high-vibration conditions, gluECO says. As further advantages, gluECO points out that the adhesives have antimicrobial properties and can be produced with a smaller carbon footprint than petroleum-derived alternatives.

The company is planning to launch the adhesives in the fourth quarter of 2022.