In a report in the ACS journal Macromolecules, Yuko Ikeda and colleagues note that a chemical process called vulcanization has been critical for the manufacturing of quality rubber since the second half of the 1800s. Chemists have improved the process, but progress has largely plateaued in recent years.
If scientists could gain insight into the details of vulcanization, they could further tweak it to make even better rubber. Ikeda’s team set out to uncover a key step in this process.
Using the latest analytical techniques, the researchers discovered a previously unknown structure that forms during vulcanization. The new observation could contribute to making the ubiquitous material even better. For the auto industry, resulting improvements in tire performance could translate to fuel savings and lower emissions, the researchers say.
In other efforts to improve efficiency in tires, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is using rice husk waste to produce fuel-efficient tires.
Photo Credit: rubber tire via Shutterstock