WOOSTER, Ohio—EnergyEne Inc. is receiving nearly $650,000 in grant money to help develop a viable market for latex taken from the guayule shrub grown domestically.
The Wooster firm, formed by Katrina Cornish, is receiving a new small business grant of $648,557 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The money, offered through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, will further efforts to use the material to create gloves that protect medical workers from radiation.
"I have spent most of my career trying to get domestic rubber production going because it's so idiotic for us to be at such risk of loss of this critical raw material, especially over the last few years where we have been making enemies left, right and center in Asia," said Cornish, a professor at Ohio State University's Wooster campus. "They could just cut us off from natural rubber if they chose to."
EnergyEne sees the radiation attenuation market as a potential fit for gloves made from guayule latex instead of the latex tapped from rubber trees or synthetic latex.
Guayule is a shrub that grows in the Southwest and is viewed as a domestic source of rubber that ultimately could be commercialized on a large scale. Many believe it has the potential to lessen the country's dependence on foreign rubber.
EnergyEne is many years into its research and development surrounding guayule rubber and already has a pilot plant that uses a batch process. The new funding will allow operations to move toward commercialization, Cornish said in a recent interview.
She sees multiple pathways to success with the project, including development of commercial scale plants, licensing of technology and even an outright sale of the technology.