Two Iowa State researchers have created a cheaper alternative to a popular wax.

The technology developed by Dr. Tong Wang and postdoctoral research associate Tao Fei in Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition was selected for the National Innovation Award given at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. The technology is a vegetable oil-based material that can serve as a substitute for carnauba wax.

Carnauba wax can be found in many foods, cosmetics and household products, such as dental floss, lipstick and automobile wax. Because it is derived from the leaves of Brazilian palm trees, the product is expensive. Wang and Fei wanted to come up with an alternative that would be more cost-effective, yet work just as well.

The product they developed is made from soybean oil. The development process started in the beginning of 2015. During the development process, Fei said it took quite a bit of trial and error until they came up with their final product.

“We kept adjusting and adjusting until we got it right,” Fei said.

Once the product was complete, the Iowa State University Research Foundation submitted a provisional patent for the product. The ISU Research Foundation presented it at TechConnect, which took place May 14-17.

Fei said when they first started work on the product, he didn’t think it would do as well as it has, yet alone win an award.

“Seeing a product you developed on the market is exciting and makes you feel good,” Fei said.

The two researchers have applied for further funding from the United Soybean Board (USB) to continue their research and commercialization of this product. They are hoping to receive funding for another coating wax, which also has been filed as a provisional patent. The coating wax would serve as a paraffin substitute.

“I appreciate the frequent communication with USB regarding industry’s need and directions for applications,” Wang said. “Conducting basic research with near-term commercialization possibilities has been a great experience for us.”


Tong Wang, professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 515-294-5448,

Tao Fei, postdoctoral research associate, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition,

Whitney Sager, communications coordinator, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 515-294-9166,

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