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Environmentally-friendly baby wipe takes top prize at Soy Innovation Competition

A plastic-free, soy-based baby wipe took home the top prize at the 2024 Student Soybean Innovation Competition sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Purdue University. 

SoySilk was created by Purdue University junior Kyle Han, a biological engineering major from Taipei, Taiwan, and freshman Ben Gottlieb, a finance major from Chappaqua, New York.

Han tells Brownfield outside of water, the environmentally friendly wipe alternative has only one non-soy ingredient. “We discovered a fiber that’s made from soybeans,” he says. “They actually create a very strong grip while we’re using it. But it also provides a very silky silk like texture that’s very gentle on baby skin.”

He says their product outperforms other name-brand baby wipes on the market. “We actually use soy lecithin,” he says. “It’s a very gentle surfactant in our baby wide formulation that helped us clean up the dirt very well while we were testing.”

Gottlieb says there is huge market potential for this product. “We have this chart where it shows SoySilk in the middle and then all the different types of products we could apply this technology to,” he says. “Yes, this is a baby wipe, but we could do makeup remover wipes, cleaning wipes, disinfecting wipes, and all these different kinds of products with this base technology.”

Han says this competition highlights how soybeans are more than just an agricultural crop. “It can turn into a different kind of solution,” he says.  “It’s extremely versatile.  We’re just really astonished on how soybeans came such a long way and it can become a different kind of products.”

Han and Gottlieb received $20,000 for winning the competition.

Earning second place this year, and a $10,000 prize, were the creators of SoyBox, a soy-based thermoplastic starch that can be used to manufacture cartons that can hold liquid. SoyBox is a multipurpose, water-resistant material for liquid packaging boards that can be used to store milk, juice, broths and other liquids typically stored in a carton rather than a bottle or jug.  Finishing third, and earning a $5,000 prize, were the creators of Green Eggs, No Ham!, a novel egg substitute made with multiple ingredients derived from soy.

Fifteen teams, made up of 48 Purdue University students and 19 faculty advisors, finished the competition. 

The checkoff investment from Indiana soybean farmers to find new soybean innovations isn’t limited to the competition. The state soybean checkoff also funds the Soybean Utilization Endowed Chair at Purdue’s College of Agriculture, Dr. Nathan Mosier, to lead research into new uses for soybeans.

This is the 30th year for the competition.

AUDIO: Kyle Han and Ben Gottlieb, Purdue University Students

Photo courtesy Indiana Soybean Alliance

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