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Posted on August 17, 2015
Continental, the German tire manufacturer, managed to make a tire out of Dandelion rubber. It seems that this new material is more sustainable than the latex currently used in the conventional production.
More than one billion tires are produced each year. The main ingredient used at 41% in the tread compound is rubber. Up to now, the rubber used to produce tires was harvested from the Hevea tree, a Brazilian tree. To get the latex out of the tree, a method similar to the one used to get Maple syrup is used. An incision is made in the tree’s bark, which cuts through the latex vessels of the tree causing a thick liquid, similar to white glue, to flow out. The Hevea tree can be harvested for about thirty years.
The problem with this exploitation lies within the fact that the tree only gives about one cup of liquid per three hours and that the tree takes around 7 year to reach maturity. Another problem with Hevea tree is that it is currently menaced by a parasitic fungus that puts the tree and exploitations in danger. For these reasons, it is important to find a new, sustainable way to fulfil the worldwide demand for rubber, if the Hevea was to disappear.
An obvious substitute
After a few research and tests, it was discovered that the roots of the Dandelion plant also contained a liquid similar to natural latex. In Germany, a team of scientific found out a method to genetically modify the dandelion to increase its latex percentage.
Continental at the forefront
Being aware of this technological advancement, Continental made their first tire based on this new rubber technology. They presented their first prototype and their road tests of these new dandelion-rubber made tires were positive. It seems that the dandelion latex is a viable alternative in the rubber production methods and these small invasive plants are useful at last.