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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

NJIT BPA Researchers To Receive NJ R&D Council Honor

Michael Jaffe, PhD

NJIT researchers Anthony East, Michael Jaffe, Yi Zhang and Luiz Catalani will number among more than 40 inventors and 13 New Jersey companies, universities and the U.S. Army to be honored Nov. 10, 2011 by the Research & Development (R&D) Council of New Jersey. Avaya, BASF, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, ExxonMobil, Honeywell, Immunomedics, NJIT, Novartis, Rutgers, Siemens, UMDNJ, and U.S. Army ARDEC will all be recognized for innovative patent work spanning 13 R&D categories, including: biomaterials, defense, environmental, industrial processes, information technology, manufacturing, materials technology, medical health, medical imaging, pharmaceutical, pharmaceutical process, renewables and telecommunications. 

The event will be held at the Liberty Science Center, where a short original film will pay tribute to the honorees. Council President Anthony Cicatiello says, “Some of the most innovative R&D in the world is done here in New Jersey. The Council is proud not only to celebrate our foremost scientists, but to bring their work to life on the big screen so every New Jerseyan can see the faces of those who are changing our world.” 

Jaffe, a research professor, heads the NJIT team. In 2009, “Thermoset Epoxy Polymers from Renewable Resources” was awarded US patent #7,619,056 (issued 11/17/2009) for a chemical derived from sugar. It will receive a patent award in the renewable category.  Honored with Jaffe will be co-inventors Anthony East, research professor; Yi Zhang, research scientist, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Wayne; Luiz Catalani, former visiting research professor, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The new material uses a glucose-derived product, isosorbide, to create a compound that may replace bisphenol A (BPA) in epoxy resins.  Such resins are used in a number of adhesives and coatings of consumer products, including those used in the lining of tin cans.  The NJIT researchers also received another patent (#7,947,785, issued 5/24/2011) to complement this earlier one. 

Jaffe has been developing sugar-based materials in conjunction with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) in an effort to promote and create new, commercially attractive, sustainable chemistries from wider uses of corn.  This new sugar derivative can be obtained from corn. The two patents are part of a series filed by the ICPB and NJIT to develop applications and markets for sugar-based chemistry.

Jaffe’s work with sugar-based chemicals has so captured the imaginations of others in his field that a book chapter by Jaffe about this work has remained for months on the must-read list of the prestigious American Chemical Society Symposium series. Co-authors were NJIT research professors East and W. Hammond, and doctoral student Xianhong Feng.

“Renewable materials made from corn are gaining ground for new industrial plastics markets,” said Rod Williamson, Iowa Corn Director of Research and Business Development. “Making epoxy from corn can be a win-win for public health, plastic manufacturers and for farmers.”

Sugar-based chemicals can be used as building blocks to produce new monomers, polymers and additives for the commercial plastics and cosmetics industries. These are materials generally recognized as safe sugar compounds with a unique stereochemistry providing a ubiquitous platform for making cost-effective chemicals and polymers.

The book chapter focuses on compounds and materials based on isosorbide and its isomers. These can be either incorporated in the backbone of new polymers or converted to low molar mass additives for polymer systems or as specialty chemicals. As the cost of petroleum rises, the attractiveness of renewable feedstocks for producing value-added products increases. The emergence of sustainable sugar derived chemicals (especially isosorbide modified products) offers attractive prospects with high potential for the next generation chemical industry.

Much attention has recently focused on BPA, which has been known to have estrogenic properties since the 1930s. BPA is widely used in processes that result in the lining for tin cans and key ingredients in plastics ranging from baby bottles to nail polish.

Unfortunately, the chemical bonds that link BPA in polymer structures are not completely stable and the polymer may slowly decay with time, releasing small amounts of it into materials with which it comes into contact, such as food or water. Recent studies have shown the widespread presence of tiny amounts of BPA in the environment. Even at minute levels BPA may still exert estrogen-like effects on living organisms.

One of the nation’s leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT’s multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of 11,400 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering and cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $121 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com. NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey.