InTrans / Nov 02, 2022

Iowa State engineers spin off tech, company to market soy oil for better roads, pavements

Chris Williams

Iowa State University engineers co-founded SoyLei with a goal to “commercialize green technologies developed at Iowa State University,” according to the company website. “These technologies use renewable resources, such as soybean oil, to substitute products in different industries.”

SoyLei Innovations, established in 2020 by six Iowa State co-founders including Asphalt Materials and Pavements Program (AMPP) Director Chris Williams, and based in the Iowa State University Research Park, is all about commercializing that biopolymer/asphalt additive and other green technologies developed at the university.

The name SoyLei is a play on high-oleic soybean oil, the healthier oils with less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fatty acids for the food industry plus valuable oils for manufacturers, said the engineers. The soy biopolymers are a greener technology that replaces a petroleum-based polymer called polybutadiene, a compound used to make synthetic rubber that’s in short supply, highly reactive, and carcinogenic, Williams said.

With early support from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Iowa Soybean Association, the United Soybean Board, the National Science Foundation, the state Board of Regents and Seneca Petroleum Co. Inc., the engineers developed their alternative and over time learned the challenges of manufacturing and marketing a new product.

More information about SoyLei and its co-founders is available from the Iowa State News Service article.