Through a project backed by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, a chemistry professor and graduate students at Pittburg (Kan.) State University are using biodegradable materials such as soybean meal to develop an inner core of the ball and soybean oil-based polymer for the outer layer. The raw materials will be shipped to a California company for manufacturing and testing. “We have developed eco-friendly batteries using the soybean and thought golf could have use for bio-based materials,” says Dr. Ram Gupta, “[and the early] results are pretty exciting.”
Researchers at the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University are partnering once again with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council to create an eco-friendly version of an “everyday product”—and this time it’s golf balls, The Morning Sun of Pittsburg reported.
“We have developed some eco-friendly batteries using the soybean and we thought ‘Hey, what is next,’ and we thought golf could have use for bio-based materials,” Dr. Ram Gupta, a chemistry professor at Pittsburg State, told The Morning Sun. “Golf balls are a pretty big industry, about 3.8 or 4 billion dollars.”
Gupta and graduate students embarked in June on their new project in eco-friendly design, to make golf balls out of biodegradable soybean polymers, The Morning Sun reported.
“Many times, golf balls are lost in the field or the lake or the pond, and it does not degrade,” Gupta said. “So our idea is to use some material that is from the biome, and that will help to sustain the future.”
The project, which is expected to last around two years, is being conducted in two parts, The Morning Sun reported. One part will focus on creating the inner part of the golf ball, and the other on the harder outer shell.
“Our idea is to use soybean-based materials such as soybean meal to use for the inner core,” Gupta said, “And for the outer layer—you can see this has to be very strong—we are using soybean oil-based polymer.
“We know that the material from the soybeans has a lot of potential,” Gupta added.
Gupta and his team have already created the soy-based material for the outer layer and are now beginning work on the inner soy-meal based core, The Morning Sun reported. The actual creation of the golf balls will not take place at the research center, however, which would require equipment that the university doesn’t have.
Instead, a golf ball manufacturer in California will be supplied with the raw materials and that company will then produce the golf balls and test them.
“Matching the performance of a common golf ball with the bio-based ball will be a challenge,” Gupta admitted. “There are lots of things the golf industry is looking for, like how far it will go, how it swings, how it rotates in the air. Those things will be challenge, but I think we can do it.”
And while there is a lot of work still ahead for the research team, Gupta said the work thus far has been promising.
“It’s very primitive results that we have,” he said, “but those results are pretty exciting.”
The project is grant-based and funded by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, The Morning Sun reported. The organization announced the research venture this summer as one of its soy check-off supported projects, through which farmers contribute one-half of one percent of the sale price of their soybeans to research, promotion, and education as part of an effort to fund and develop innovative new products.
Soybeans are the number one crop in Missouri, and one of the top 10 crops in Kansas, The Morning Sun reported.
“Research is a cornerstone of our pursuit of innovative solutions to the challenges we face as farmers,” said Kyle Durham, Chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council Board of Directors, as reported by The Missouri Times.
“Collaboration and partnerships are vital to maximizing the effectiveness of our research dollars, and it’s exciting to see the creativity being applied to growing our markets by developing new uses for the soybeans we grow,” Durham added.
The golf ball project’s cost will be $117,000, The Missouri Times reported, and Dr. Gupta plans to apply for a patent in partnership with the Council once his research is completed.