Cooper’s technical team is using rigorous wheel, road and track tests, which are ongoing, but to date suggest tire performance that is at least equal to tires made of components derived from the Hevea rubber plant, the tire maker said.
Cooper is working with consortium partners PanAridus, Arizona State University, Cornell University and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS). The group met recently in Maricopa, Ariz., for its third annual meeting and progress report on its $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—An American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule.”
The consortium received the BRDI grant in 2012 from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of solid rubber from the guayule plant as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for fuel applications.
The consortium aims to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for synthetic rubbers and Hevea natural rubber used in the production of tires. It is also focused on genomic and agronomic development of guayule and the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown. The grant period ends late in the second quarter of 2017.
Cooper, PanAridus and USDA-ARS have worked to identify key variables impacting rubber quality and controlling these factors during the rubber manufacturing process, resulting in compounds with properties that behave more like Hevea natural rubber than guayule isolated from other processes, the group said.
“As the lead company in the consortium, we are extremely pleased with the progress that the group has made to advance guayule technology on all fronts,” said Chuck Yurkovich, senior vice president, global research and development for Cooper. “The team is making rapid progress toward a commercial source of domestic natural rubber, and ultimately, tires made with guayule rubber.”