As part of its target to produce tires from all sustainable materials, Goodyear is developing a tire from a domestic source of natural rubber produced from dandelions.
The multiyear, multi-million dollar program is using a specific species of dandelion called Taraxacum kok-saghyz, also known as TK, and rubber produced from the plant will be used to make military aircraft tires. Goodyear is working in partnership with the US Department of Defense, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and BioMade to develop the rubber with Ohio-based Farmer Materials.
The program will build on research that analyzed more than 2,500 species of plants but found only a few with properties suitable for use in tires, such as the TK, Goodyear says.
Natural rubber is a raw material that is used in a variety of products and is an important ingredient in military, aircraft and truck tires. More than 90% of natural rubber is made from latex derived from rubber trees and is primarily sourced from tropical locations outside of the US.
Additionally, rubber trees can take up to seven years to produce the latex needed for rubber production. The logistics of producing natural rubber for tires played a role in coming up with the program to use the dandelions.
Not only is the TK grown domestically, the dandelions can be harvested every six months. They also are resilient and can grow in more temperate climates, such as Ohio.
The plant has latex properties in its roots with a significant amount of quality rubber, up to 27% of its dry weight, according to a report in IOP Science. The dandelion is native to Eastern Europe and China and was used for rubber potential as far back as World War II. It has been shown to grow better in the northern US as opposed to other parts of the country, according to Plants For A Future.
“We’re excited about this project, which holds a lot of promise for domestic rubber production and shows how bioindustrial manufacturing can help secure the domestic supply chain,” says BioMade Chief Technology Officer Melanie Tomczak.
Farmed Materials has indicated positive initial results in pilot programs using TK to produce the rubber, and the program will accelerate commercialization of the material beginning in the spring of 2022 with the planting of TK, Goodyear says.
The natural rubber produced for the aircraft tires will be built and tested under rigorous applications by Goodyear in cooperation with AFRL at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. If additional testing and work on the rubber provides promising results, Goodyear says it sees the potential for the material to be used in all tire applications.
The program is part of Goodyear’s goal of creating a tire made from 100% sustainable materials by 2030. Earlier this year the company unveiled a demonstration tire, 70% of which is made from such materials, including natural sources from soybean oil and rice husk ask.
Natural materials are becoming a tool for companies attempting to be more sustainable. Oat drink company Oatly has helped power its facilities with renewable energy produced from oat waste and Mattel is making toys made from a minimum of 56% plant-based materials, as a few recent examples.