The federally mandated phase out of plastic microbeads because of the damage they cause to U.S. ecosystems drove the winners of the Purdue Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition to create an alternative using soy. Their efforts won the top prize, $20,000 from the Indiana Soybean Alliance, awarded earlier this week. Team Soyfoliate created soy-based exfoliating beads as a natural alternative to the microbeads found in soaps and body washes.
Team member Sam Lewis from New Castle told HAT the idea came while researching soaps currently on the market.
“We saw that these plastic microbeads pollute the lakes and the oceans and there was a lot of public outcry. So these got federally banned in December of last year and by 2017 they have to be off the shelves. So there’s a huge market. With our product we created a soy microbead that can be used in soaps, acne scrubs, foot scrubs and body washes, and as our market research found a lot of people do enjoy its exfoliating property. With the market disruption of the federal ban we think we have a lot of opportunity with our product.”
He said soybeans are very versatile and offer many options for creating new products.
“I did the competition once before and we went a whole different direction, but just the utility of soy, the oils, the proteins, it just has a little bit of everything so you can kind of create whatever you want out of soy. For our product specifically, when we milled it down and tried to make something comparable to the plastic microbeads, the soy microbeads are very coarse and people do like that feeling of the coarseness more soy than the plastic microbeads. But working with the soy you can go any direction and we found what we wanted to make we could with it.”
Lewis and teammates Steve Ferris of Chesterton, and Alison Switzer of Indianapolis are third-year professional students in Purdue’s doctor of pharmacy program. Ryan Pendergast, a mechanical engineering junior from California rounds out the group.
ISA has funded the Purdue contest for 22 years to help students research and create new uses for soybeans which leads to new demand markets for soy. Crayons and candles are among the competition inventions that have made it to market in the past.
The second-place team members, who will share a $10,000 prize, created Soy Spacing Technologies, soy-based construction and glass spacers. They are Ryan DeBusk, an animal bioscience senior of Creston, California, and Taylor Gamble,Taylor Gamble-Soy Spacing Tech an agricultural business management senior of Lafayette, Indiana.
A third-place prize of $1,500 was awarded to the team that created SoyPods, soy-based detergent pods. Members are Andrew Cameron, a chemical engineering sophomore of Maple Grove, Minn.; Xuan Luo, an agricultural and biological engineering sophomore of Zhengzhou, China; and Harshit Kapoor, a civil engineering sophomore of Kolkata, India.
This year, 10 teams composed of 34 Purdue University students finished the competition. The participating students represent a variety of majors, including pharmacy, engineering, animal science and public relations. In addition, each team works with two faculty advisors who provide technical and market research support.