Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

11-17-08

Contacts:

Tong Wang, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-5448, tongwang@iastate.edu

Lynne Mumm, IPRT, (515) 294-6339, lmumm@iastate.edu

Michael Richards, Soyawax, (319) 362-3711

Dan Kuester, News Service, (515) 294-0704, kuester@iastate.edu

Iowa State researcher develops biofriendly candle wax that burns cleaner

AMES, Iowa -- Using biorenewables as a substitute for oil-based products is a concept that has a bright future.

Especially now that an Iowa State University researcher has developed advanced methods to produce candle wax made from soybeans that replaces both traditional petroleum paraffin and beeswax-based candles.

The new soy wax burns cleaner than old-style waxes without producing black smoke and soot that gets into fabrics and can be hard to clean. The new wax produces smoke that is nontoxic. And, of course, it's renewable.

Soy-based candles have been manufactured for a long time, but until now, the wax in those candles had problems.

"Candle wax made from soy was either too soft and greasy like cooking shortening, or it was brittle and crumbly," said Tong Wang, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University.

Because of the consistency of the wax, there were limitations on the types of candles that could be made with it.

"You could only make soy candles in a jar," Wang said. "You couldn't make a pillar candle or a long stick candle because the wax was either too soft or too brittle.

"I thought I could make a better candle by changing the internal structure of this (soy) material," she said.

After working to change the internal structure of the soy wax for several years, Wang was able to get the wax to form the right consistency to make candle sticks and pillar candles.

Wang, who loves candles but rarely burns them because of the soot they produce, started looking at soy wax as an alternative to oil-based wax in 1998. During that time she was able to get funding for her research through Iowa State University's Institute for Physical Research and Technology (IPRT), and also the private company Soyawax International from Cedar Rapids.

Lynne Mumm, manager of the technology commercialization group in IPRT Company Assistance, helped set up the study.

IPRT Company Assistance helps Iowa companies solve technical problems, create new products, and increase productivity and quality.

Michael Richards, the president of Soyawax International, began his work as an innovator of the soy wax industry in 1993. He says the partnership has been very helpful to advance the quality of the product.

"As a small business, we don't have the resources to have big budgets for research and development," he said. "This partnership was crucial for us to gain a technological advantage in the marketplace and critical to our success."

Soyawax is building a pilot plant in Iowa to manufacture Wang's new candle wax.

Richards thinks within a few years, Soyawax International will be producing several million pounds of the product.

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Quick look

An Iowa State University researcher has developed a new soy wax that burns cleaner, produces nontoxic smoke and is renewable.

Quote

I thought I could make a better candle by changing the internal structure of this (soy) material.

Tong Wang, associate professor in food science and human nutrition