FINI AND COLLEAGUES WORKING TO PATENT RESEARCH
With North Carolina being one of the nation’s largest pig producers, disposing manure could be a dirty job but not for one North Carolina A&T State University professor.
Civil engineering assistant professor and researcher, Ellie Fini, has been working with pig manure for four years to create an adhesive alternate to the more expensive petroleum-based adhesives used for roads, parking lots and etc.
“We researched different materials like algae, chicken and poultry manure and swine manure. Swine was very promising,” Fini said.
Fini and colleagues from the schools of Business and Economics and Technology are working to patent the research and create another spin-off company for the university, PiGrid.
Traditionally, manure is used as a fertilizer twice a year for local crops. Because North Carolina doesn’t have as many crops to use the waste on, this state is the perfect place to create a hub for a business like PiGrid. “This would be a rational use of condensing the nutrients and it could be transported this way,” Fini said.
Hubs would be the place for small farmers to bring their waste to have it converted to pathogen-free fertilizer for their crops and for the remaining materials to be turned into the adhesive.
In the research process, Fini and four of her students have found an energy efficient way of converting the hog waste to an industry standard for durable adhesives. “We wanted to have properties that are durable and that last longer than the petroleum-based adhesives,” she said.
What the research has shown is the new material works best when mixed with the petroleum-based product. “It improves the cracking resistance, the road pavement would last longer and it would be at a lower cost,” Fini said. Due to the rising cost of petroleum, that product is about $2 per gallon, whereas the bioadhesive is about 50-cents a gallon.
The research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Academy of Science. Fini says the creation of PiGrid is in line with the university’s goals for economic development and innovation in the Preeminence 2020 strategic plan. Most important, this company will create a lot of jobs, she said.
Initially, PiGrid will practice only in America. The company is seeking partners to move along with the scale up and the technology costs. At this time, Fini says other states that are large pork producers would be ideal places for hubs.
For her research on this project, Fini received the prestigious CAREER Award from the NSF.