Just last month, Bridgestone received a grant from the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute to research a drought-reistant shrub capable of producing natural rubber outside of the world’s tropical climate zone, where the majority of the current rubber crop is grown. Now, Goodyear has announced a multi-million dollar program backed by the U.S. Department of Defense to research and develop natural rubber production from dandelion roots. Both companies aim to localize production in North America and hope to bring down the cost of commercialization in the next couple of decades.
Citing rubber’s critical role as a strategic raw material for defending the U.S., Goodyear’s program is backed by the Department of Defense, Air Force Research Lab, and nonprofit BioMADE to research and produce a suitable alternative rubber crop to be used as a “critical ingredient in military, aircraft and truck tires.”
The program will build on Farmed Materials research that tested over 2,500 various species of plants, with Goodyear choosing to continue development of a species of dandelion dubbed Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or “TK.” The dandelion roots can be harvested for rubber every six months, versus a seven-year yield time for traditional rubber trees, Goodyear claims.
“Global demand for natural rubber continues to grow, and it remains a key raw material for the tire industry,” said Chris Helsel, senior vice president Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer for Goodyear. “This is a critical time to develop a domestic source of natural rubber, which may help mitigate future supply chain challenges.”
The program believes the crop will perform well in temperate regions of the U.S., like Ohio, where the program will plant seeds this Spring. Goodyear says the natural rubber yield will go into “military aircraft tires” that will then be tested by the company and the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, to make sure the compound is suitable for real-world use. If testing goes well, Goodyear plans to implement the new rubber alternative into all of its applications down the road.
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