A new peer-reviewed Fuel Journal article authored by Austin D. Hohmann, Michael J. Forrester, Maxwell Staver, Baker W. Kuehl, Nacú Hernández, R. Chris Williams, and Eric W. Cochran explains how use of chemically active soybean-derived rejuvenators can change the composition of the asphalt, making it more durable while reducing carbon emissions. A team of Iowa State University faculty and other experts wrote the article that offers a tool for QSSBs to share with state Departments of Transportation, road commissioners or others about the benefits of soy-based asphalt products. 

According to author Eric Cochran, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, asphalt rejuvenators are special additives used to bring worn-out asphalt back to life, making it similar to fresh asphalt. “This research shows that by using chemically active soybean-derived rejuvenators like SESO (sub-epoxidized soybean oil), we can change the composition of the asphalt, making it more durable and better for the environment,” says Cochran. “Additives like SESO have the unique ability to penetrate the asphalt, restructure its components, and improve its properties, which ultimately enhances the performance of road surfaces. 

“In a real-world road paving project in Indiana, SESO produced a high-performance pavement using 40% recycled asphalt compared to the typical 20-25%, resulting in better road performance and a reduction in energy use and emissions,” adds Cochran. 

SESO is the active ingredient in Vitala available from SoyLei Innovations. SoyLei was established in 2020 with the goal of commercializing environmentally preferable technologies developed at Iowa State University. The United Soybean Board and Iowa soy checkoff have supported Iowa State and SoyLei’s soy-based road research and promotion. 

According to the Fuel article, “It is no secret that the demand for the higher value components of petroleum refining such as fuels, lubricates, and monomers are often stretched thin, and these bio-asphalt additives offer a tremendous opportunity by providing an economic, environmentally friendly way to use both lower quality as well as recycled asphalt while leaving the higher-value components of the crude refining process available for high value applications thus reducing carbon emissions while also allowing the finite reserve of petroleum to stretch further into the future.” 

Soy’s use in roads is another excellent opportunity for U.S. Soy to deliver sustainable solutions to every life, every day. The Fuel article notes these key points: 

  • About 94% of the 2.8 million miles of paved U.S. roads featured an asphalt surface in 2018, according to the Federal Highway Administration. 
  • In 2019, U.S. asphalt pavement production was nearly 420 million tons, representing over $15 billion in economic activity as well as 21 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions and 80 million barrels of oil equivalent embodied energy.