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Rolling on dandelions

“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 of 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.”

Classified as a strategic raw material by the DOD, natural rubber serves as a critical ingredient in military, aircraft and truck tires. Today, more than 90 percent of the world’s natural rubber is made from latex mainly sourced from tropical locations outside of the United States.

“This partnership highlights how BioMADE brings together companies of different sizes to solve critical problems,” said Melanie Tomczak, chief technology officer at BioMADE. “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.”

The particular species of dandelion being turned into tires can be harvested every six months and can grow in more temperate climates. Conversely, it takes about seven years for rubber trees to produce the latex necessary for rubber production.

A press release explained that out of 2,500 species of plants tested, only the “Taraxacum kok-saghyz, a species of dandelion known as TK, has proven to be a valuable alternative to natural rubber trees. Farmed Materials has shown initial positive results in pilot programs for TK, yielding strong harvests that necessitate the need for additional planting and funding.”

This multimillion-dollar project will “accelerate commercialization of TK, beginning in the spring of 2022 with the planting and harvesting of TK seeds in Ohio. The natural rubber produced will be used in the production of military aircraft tires that will be built and tested under rigorous applications by Goodyear in cooperation with the AFRL at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.”

If testing is successful, Goodyear said it sees potential for the use of TK rubber in all tire applications.

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