Industrial Uses of Soybeans: Thinking outside the Tofu Box

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The range of industrial applications of soybeans is amazing, and almost every part of the soybean plant can be used. The table below gives an overview of these industrial uses, organized by component of the soybean plant.

   Soy Component
 Industrial Usage
 

Protein

Animal feed; wood adhesives; filler in rubber and plastics, used in car door seals and floor mats; cosmetics; textiles (spun protein)

 

Oil

Polyurethane foams (replacement for petrochemical ingredients); insulation; lubricants; paints and coatings (urethane); waxes; biodiesel; printing inks; cleaning products; soaps; lotions

 

Fibre

Biofuel (cellulosic ethanol, from non-food components of plant); use of soy stalks as a plastic filler is in experimental stages

 

Lecithin

Coatings such as wood stains (made as a byproduct of oil refining)

 

Other

Soybean seed coats (hulls) contain an enzyme (peroxidase) that can be used to clean certain contaminants from industrial wastewater (experimental stage).

Images from Wikimedia commons

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Krysta Levac

After an undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, I earned a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Cornell University in 2001. I spent 7 years as a post-doctoral fellow and research associate in stem cell biology at Robarts Research Institute at Western University in London, ON. I currently enjoy science writing, Let's Talk Science outreach, and volunteering at my son's school. I love sharing my passion for science with others, especially children and youth. I am also a bookworm, a yogi, a quilter, a Lego builder and an occasional "ninja spy" with my son.



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