OSU develops sweet new tech

OSU develops sweet new tech

CORVALLIS. Ore. - Ever wonder how car parts, plumbing parts and other cast metal parts are made?

Materials are poured into molds that shape the finished product.  

Now, some Oregon State University scientists have found a cheaper and less toxic way to do it - and it's a sweet deal.

It's the most basic of ingredients, and it's on your kitchen table.

"It's the same stuff you eat when you're baking donuts or cookies," said Kaichang Li, OSU professor of wood science.

Sorry, no cookies today  - but these scientists have "cooked up" a new way to make the sand molds that go into metal castings to make everything from water pumps to jet engines to car parts.

Sugar.

"This motivation for us, we'd like to develop an environmentally friendly sand binder," Li said.

They're mixing this lab recipe with a common kitchen blender.  

You start with some silica sand.

"Actually he just added sugar and water," Li says, in describing the mixing process for the KVAL camera.

Add a dash of bentonite, then pack the compound into the mold to make the forms. Down the hall and in another lab room is a small oven.

After 50 minutes at 275 degrees, it's done.

Li said this new mold making system will be cheaper than conventional methods - with no more toxic fumes.

OSU is already looking ahead on their very sweet idea. College of Forestry officials have applied for a patent for this new discovery. They're looking for investors or industry partners to commercialize the concept.

Li said they know this can work for the multi-billion dollar foundry industry. The sugar compound "will be really strong and also very moisture resistant."

It could be an industry changer that gives the foundry business a real sweet tooth.