Increasingly, companies are trying to find alternative sources of rubber, and they are often turning to plants.
A company in Arizona has just released to manufacturers its first samples of rubber made from guayule, a drought-tolerant crop and native to the Sonoran Desert. Tire manufacturers are considering whether to use guayule as a substitute for natural rubber in tires.
PanAridus, based in Casa Grande, AZ, has been cultivating the plant since 2009. Not only can the plant be used as a source for rubber, but it can also be used for making resins or be non-food, organic waste that can be used for biomass, making the plant virtually waste-free, reports Truckinginfo.com.
Cooper Tire and Bridgestone are two companies seeking alternatives to petroleum-based rubber. Bridgestone, which is interested in using dandelions are a source for rubber, also is creating farms for cultivating guayule. Meanwhile, Cooper Tire is researching how to create polymers from guayule for tire applications.
The Brazilian Rubber Tree, Hevea brasiliensis (Hevea), which is grown almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, has traditionally been regarded as the only commercial natural rubber source in the world. However, its supplies are unreliable as economic growth has occurred in India and China.
“While the first century of exploring domestic alternatives to Hevea rubber from Asia and petroleum-based synthetic rubber has been marked by uncertainty, we’ve been able to unlock the Rosetta Stone through genetics, agronomics, and sustained research,” says PanAridus CEO Michael Fraley.
The company is offering samples of the rubber made from guayule so it can be independently verified that it meets the standards as an alternative for tire rubber. And there are benefits to the local farmers as well.
“At PanAridus, we’re ‘seeding rubber’s future’ by unlocking its profit at the farm gate, making it viable for farmers in arid climates like the Southwestern U.S. to make more money per acre growing [guayule] than they can growing traditional water-intensive crops like cotton and alfalfa,” he says.
Source: “Guayle Rubber Samples Offered for Testing as Tire Rubber Alternative,” Truckinginfo.com, 9/28/12
Image by Ambiguous.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.