Researchers Develop Substitute for BPA-Based Epoxy

UMass Lowell Scientist Calls Alternative ‘Promising,’ Evaluation Ongoing

07/09/2013


Contacts:   Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu
                  Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or Christine_Gillette@uml.edu
                  
LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell researchers have developed an epoxy resin that holds promise as a safe substitute for resins that contain bisphenol A – better known as BPA – a compound commonly found in the lining of food and beverage cans that poses potential health risks. 

Used since the 1960s in consumer products ranging from baby bottles to eyeglass lenses, BPA mimics the hormone estrogen in the body, giving rise to concerns that it could harm human reproduction and development. Its potential risks are now being studied by the National Institutes of Health and the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Led by Daniel Schmidt, an associate professor of plastics engineering, the UMass Lowell team has identified a compound that could become an alternative to BPA in epoxy resins that are used in many adhesives and a host of other products. The substance is known as bis(epoxide) of 2,2,4,4-tetramethyl-1,3-cyclobutanediol (CBDO). 

“All things being equal, we believe it is fair to say that replacing BPA with the monomer we’ve chosen will produce an economical, high-performance epoxy resin that generates less concern,” Schmidt said. “The results have been very promising so this has been pretty exciting.” 

In contrast to BPA, the structure of CBDO “bears no resemblance to estrogen or any other human hormone,” Schmidt said, and published tests show the substance does not mimic the behavior of common classes of male or female hormones. 

Schmidt is an expert in the formation, characterization, structure and properties of polymer nanocomposites and networks. Last year, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell (TURI) – which works to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and protect public health and the environment – named him a “University Research Champion” for his work exploring safer alternatives to hazardous substances. 

Contributing to Schmidt’s work researching the BPA-free epoxy were Robert Romano of North Reading, who earned a master’s degree in plastics engineering from UMass Lowell and Smruti Patil, a Lowell resident who is a doctoral student in UMass Lowell’s Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology program. 

The research phase of the project was supported by TURI and the UMass President’s Office Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund. With support from UMass Lowell’s Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property, Schmidt is working with an epoxy toll manufacturer to produce enough of the substance to provide it to various companies for further evaluations. 

“The hope is that some, if not all, of our industrial contacts find our materials useful and will be interested in pursuing further development with us,” he said. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 16,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu