CORVALLIS, Ore. Based on a new discovery by researchers at Oregon State University, the world's multi-billion dollar foundry industry may soon develop a sweet tooth.
This industry, that produces metal castings used in everything from water pumps and jet engines to railroad and automobile parts, dates back thousands of years to before Greek and Roman times. It was important in the advance of human civilization, but still continues to evolve.
Some modern technologies use various types of "binders" to essentially glue together sands and other materials to form sophisticated molds, into which molten metals are injected to create products with complex shapes. Existing approaches work, but some materials used today, such as furan resins and phenol formaldehyde resins, can emit toxic fumes during the process.
However, experts in adhesion science in the OSU College of Forestry have discovered and applied for a patent on a new use of a compound that appears to also work surprisingly well for this purpose. They say it should cost less than existing binders, is completely renewable and should be environmentally benign.
It's called sugar.
"We were surprised that simple sugar could bind sand together so strongly," said Kaichang Li, an OSU professor of wood science and engineering. "Sugar and other carbohydrates are abundant, inexpensive, food-grade materials.
"The binder systems we've developed should be much less expensive than existing sand binders and not have toxicity concerns," Li added.
Sugar is a highly water-soluble food ingredient, as anyone knows who has ever put a teaspoon of it in a cup of coffee. The OSU researchers discovered a novel way to make strong and moisture-resistant sand molds with sugar. An inaccurate reading of temperature in a baking oven helped lead to the important discovery, they said.
Li and an OSU faculty research assistant, Jian Huang, identified combinations of s
|Contact: Kaichang Li |
Oregon State University