Soybean: Uses

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Soy sauce, tofu, soy milk – those are all food products derived from soy beans. Now scientists are exploring other potential non-food uses for this versatile bean, including as a source of oil. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

“In the U.S. we grow more soybeans than any other place in the world, and there is a tremendous infrastructure for developing products out of the beans.”

Lou Honary is developing soybean-based industrial products here at the University of Northern Iowa. Soybeans are grown primarily for cattle feed. Despite their nutritional value, they’ve never really become popular as human food. But they do have a high percentage of oil, and that’s what makes them so appealing as a possible source of industrial oils. Unfortunately, soybean oil also happens to be what scientists call “oxidatively unstable”.

“Which means if you expose it to machinery it will begin to oxidize and as it oxidizes, just like if you have it in the french fry pan, it will begin to thicken up and it will become rancid and you can smell that. And if you don’t control oxidation it will begin to change to polymerization, which means the molecules get longer and longer, and before you know it you have plastic in your frying pan or in the machinery.”

But with some chemical manipulation, soybean oil can work in machinery. One of the products being developed is called “Biotrans” — a fluid for use in electrical transformers. We’ll hear more about it in our next program. To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet programs again online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Soybean: Uses

Soy sauce, tofu and soy milk aren't all that soybeans have to offer. Your local electricity utility may find a use for them, too.
Air Date:09/25/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

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Soy sauce, tofu, soy milk - those are all food products derived from soy beans. Now scientists are exploring other potential non-food uses for this versatile bean, including as a source of oil. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

"In the U.S. we grow more soybeans than any other place in the world, and there is a tremendous infrastructure for developing products out of the beans."

Lou Honary is developing soybean-based industrial products here at the University of Northern Iowa. Soybeans are grown primarily for cattle feed. Despite their nutritional value, they've never really become popular as human food. But they do have a high percentage of oil, and that's what makes them so appealing as a possible source of industrial oils. Unfortunately, soybean oil also happens to be what scientists call "oxidatively unstable".

"Which means if you expose it to machinery it will begin to oxidize and as it oxidizes, just like if you have it in the french fry pan, it will begin to thicken up and it will become rancid and you can smell that. And if you don’t control oxidation it will begin to change to polymerization, which means the molecules get longer and longer, and before you know it you have plastic in your frying pan or in the machinery."

But with some chemical manipulation, soybean oil can work in machinery. One of the products being developed is called "Biotrans" -- a fluid for use in electrical transformers. We'll hear more about it in our next program. To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet programs again online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

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