Corn Commentary

Corn is More than Food

Something gets lost in the “food versus fuel” fight, and that is that corn is an amazingly versatile crop with endless possibilities for bio-friendly products. Using it for food or feed alone is just limiting its enormous potential.

Teams of Purdue University students recently came up with a few more potential uses for corn. The winners of this year’s Corn Innovation Contest, sponsored by the the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, developed a liquid bandage made out of a by-product from corn ethanol production called zein. The Natural Renewal Liquid Bandage - created by students Andrew Furrow of Greenwood , Ann Alvar of Zionsville, Robert Agee of Rushville and Yang Zhou of West Lafayette (not pictured) - takes advantage of the properties of zein, which is a transparent, edible, water insoluble and biodegradable polymer that acts as a physical defense for wounds and binds to the skin’s surface. The team used ethyl alcohol made from corn to act as an antiseptic until the solvent evaporates. They believe that the product also will act as a skin scaffold that will reduce scarring in minor wounds. For their innovative thinking, the team members are sharing a cash award of $20,000.

Second place and $10,000 in the competition this year went to Jonathon Welte of Elberfeld, Audrey Wessel of St. Anthony and Spencer Dieg of Evansville for creating drop ceiling tiles made from corn stover. The team worked to create tiles that were more environmentally friendly compared with regular tiles made from such materials as wood, plastic and fiberglass and other materials.

The competition also includes new products for soybeans and the winners this year developed Dentural, an all-natural adhesive for full dentures. The product is in the form of a paste consisting of soy products that form a vacuum to keep dentures in place. It is an alternative to synthetic chemicals used in other products.

“The versatility of corn and soybeans is limitless, and these competitions serve as a showcase not only for the potential new uses of crops grown here in Indiana but also for the students who put their time, effort and talent into their projects,” said Jane Ade Stevens, executive director for both the corn and soybean checkoff organizations. “Indiana corn and soybean farmers are committed to working with Purdue to continue to build excitement around the new uses competitions, which ultimately helps build demand for corn and soybeans,” Stevens said.

(Purdue Agricultural Communication Photos/Tom Campbell)