sealPurdue News

November 1996

Lab helps companies find cost-effective environmental solutions

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University is helping manufacturers find cost-effective ways to meet new environmental regulations, without compromising product quality.

"Manufacturers that use paint and other coatings on their products will soon be affected by new federal environmental standards, so it will no longer be 'business as usual,'" says Tom Sparrow, director of Purdue's Institute for Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies.

"For example, companies in the secondary wood-products industries that make furniture or cabinets have only about a year to comply."

A new center at Purdue, the Coating Applications Research Laboratory, was established in October to help companies find the least-expensive way to meet environmental regulations while maintaining product quality.

The facility is supported by fees paid by companies that use it. While the emphasis is on small- to medium-sized companies in Indiana, the center also works with out-of-state businesses, which pay a higher hourly fee.

The initial focus of the center is on temperature-sensitive substrates, such as wood and plastic, because regulations for the wood-products industries go into effect soon, Sparrow says. But the center also can deal with other areas, such as protective and decorative coating processes for metal products.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued standards limiting the amount of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that can be emitted by industry into the atmosphere. Coatings such as paint, stain and varnish -- used extensively by the furniture industry -- contain VOCs, which evaporate into the air as the coatings dry. Companies in the wood-products industries that use such coatings must comply with the regulations by December 1997 or face serious sanctions.

The amount of VOCs released can be reduced by controlling how the coatings are applied and then dried, but not all companies have the knowledge or the equipment to do so, Sparrow says.

"This facility allows manufacturers to try different combinations of procedures and test out the various compliance options off-line," Sparrow says. "Companies will save time and money, because they will not have to use their own production lines to determine which compliance option maintains their product's quality and does it at least cost.

"Manufacturers can bring their coatings and their product to the facility, and we'll run them through various coating and drying techniques and tests to determine the best processes. If a company has a problem with its coatings, we can set up our lab to try to find a solution."

CONTACT: Sparrow, (317) 463-1694; e-mail,

To receive the full text of a news release about the new lab, send an e-mail message to that says "send punews 9610f12"

Teens with a brand preference choose to smoke, drink more often

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the 30-page study or an abstract are available from Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Teens with a preference for a particular brand of cigarette or beer are using those substances more and are more likely to use them in the future, according to a study of more than 4,000 ninth- and 11th-grade students.

"Research shows that knowledge of beer and cigarette brands alone does not indicate usage. However, our study shows that having a preferred brand seems to be a factor in both current use and intention to use in the future," says Robert. A. Lewis, the Norma H. Compton Distinguished Professor of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University and expert on drug abuse.

A large proportion of students reported having cigarette or beer brand preferences regardless of whether they were regular users. "Two-thirds of the regular cigarette smokers indicated a preferred brand, and even among those who had smoked only once or twice, 12 percent had a brand preference," Lewis says.

The findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Substance Abuse.

Overall, the older the student, the more likely it was that they would have a beer or cigarette brand preference, with preferences tending to increase with each grade. "Adolescents are more likely to have a preferred brand of beer than brand of cigarette, which runs parallel with alcohol and cigarette usage rates," Lewis says.

Lewis says other researchers have found that adolescent smokers are more aware of cigarette advertisements than non-smokers. And persons with a favorable response to cigarette advertising are more likely to smoke that first cigarette. "While this study cannot conclude that brand preferences were directly tied to cigarette and beer advertising, we do think this is the case," Lewis says. "The development of brand preference or loyalty is the declared goal of advertising."

The study was based on data from drug use questionnaires distributed to students at 47 schools in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. The study was conducted by Lewis and two former Purdue doctoral students. It was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

CONTACT: Lewis, (317) 448-4193; e-mail,

Purdue students put the 'happy' back into birthday candles

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of the students with the candles is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the photo called Soybean Candles/Schweitzer.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Now you can have your cake and eat the candles, too, thanks to three Purdue University students who have created an edible birthday cake candle that uses hydrogenated soybean oil instead of petroleum-based paraffin.

The peppermint-flavored candles don't drip and have a slightly shorter flame height. Christened "Flavor Favors" by their student inventors, the soy-based candles burn an average 25 seconds longer than commercial candles.

The candles took first place in a universitywide undergraduate student competition sponsored by Purdue's Department of Agronomy and the Indiana Soybean Development Council. Inventors Amy Khal of Iowa City, Iowa , Rahul Nair of Jackson, Miss., and Adam Watkins of Goshen, Ind., all students in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, split a $5,000 prize.

The composition of the candles is 83 percent hydrogenated soybean oil; 16 percent glycerol, a sweet emulsifier; about 1 percent coloring; and a bit of concentrated peppermint oil for flavoring. A combination of fully and partially hydrogenated soybean oil gives the blue, red and yellow candles form and texture; the glycerol makes the candles slightly softer and easier to chew. The peppermint oil could be replaced by other flavors as desired, Khal said.

Watkins, who was the designated candle eater for the team, says he wants to continue work on replacing the cotton wick with something tastier. Watkins is maintaining a World Wide Web page for the project at

CONTACT: Chris Sigurdson, agricultural communications, (765) 494-8415; home, (317) 497-2433; e-mail,

To receive the full text of a news release about the edible candles, send an e-mail message to that says "send punews 9604f41

Photo caption:

Purdue agricultural engineering students Adam Watkins, Amy Khal and Rahul Nair have invented edible birthday cake candles that use soybean oil, an earth-friendly renewable resource, in place of petroleum-based paraffin. Their invention won them $5,000 as the first-place entry in a Purdue contest for new uses for soybeans. (Purdue News Service photo by David Umberger.)

Color print, electronic transmission available, and Web or ftp download here. Photo ID: Schweitzer/Soycandles

Retailers lose 'interest' by not taking advantage of discounts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Retailers who don't take advantage of cash discounts offered by suppliers end up paying the equivalent of exorbitant interest rates on money that could be applied to the bottom line, says a Purdue University retail expert.

It's common practice for suppliers to offer discounts to retailers who pay the invoice in full by a specified date. Retailers who don't take advantage of the opportunity are making a costly mistake, says Tim Christiansen, assistant professor of retail management.

"Many retailers just toss the bills into a pile and pay them when the net amount on the invoice is due," he says. "If retailers looked at the discount the way it should be viewed, as an interest expense, they would quickly see they are sometimes paying 30 percent to 40 percent interest annually."

Typically, a retailer receives an invoice specifying the percentage discount being offered, the discount period and the full amount of the invoice. For example, an invoice with the terms 2%/10, net 30, means retailers can take 2 percent off the price of the merchandise if they pay within 10 days. Otherwise, the full amount is due within 30 days.

To a retailer who would only have to pay $980 on a $1,000 invoice within the first 10 days, the $20 seems like small change, Christiansen says, but it's as if the retailer is paying $20 "interest" to "borrow" that $980 for 20 days. That's the equivalent of a 36 percent annual interest rate.

"Even credit cards don't charge that much interest," he says.

But retailers often don't have cash-in-hand, and they use this as an excuse for not taking advantage of discounts. Christiansen says borrowing from a bank is better than foregoing the discounts.

He also notes that suppliers offer the cash discounts to stimulate cash flow, and that the discounts aren't legally defined as loans.

CONTACT: Christiansen, (317) 589-7808; e-mail,


Compiled by Victor B. Herr, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,