Innovation That Matters

The roots of Taraxacum kok-saghyz, a species of dandelion also known as TK, could be a valuable alternative to natural rubber trees | Photo source Farmed Materials / Goodyear

Natural rubber made from dandelions


The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and the US Department of Defense are collaborating to make natural rubber from a species of locally grown dandelion

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Spotted: More than 99 per cent of the world’s natural rubber is made from latex derived from rubber trees – almost all of which grow in southeast Asia. The tyre industry uses around 70 per cent of this rubber – and demand is growing all the time, raising several issues related to sustainability, governance, social, and economic practices. One major purchaser of natural rubber is The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Goodyear has previously committed to sourcing the rubber sustainably, and now the company is partnering with the US Department of Defense (DoD), BioMADE, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and Farmed Materials to develop a domestic source of natural rubber.

The programme will focus on developing Taraxacum kok-saghyz—a species of dandelion also known as TK—as an alternative to natural rubber trees. Farmed Materials, which develops agriculturally derived and sustainable high-performance polymers, has shown good results from pilot programmes using TK. Now, with funding from the DoD, Farmed Materials will speed up development of TK-based rubber – beginning with the planting and harvesting of TK seeds in Ohio.

While it takes rubber trees around seven years of growth before the latex can be harvested, the TK dandelions can be harvested every six months. They can also be grown in a more temperate climate than rubber trees. The natural rubber produced from the programme will be used to produce military aircraft tyres. These will then undergo rigorous testing by the AFRL to ensure they are fit for use.

“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.”

Goodyear are not the only company working on a more sustainable alternative to traditional tyres. Last year, we covered a tyre made by Continental using a TK-based rubber, along with silicate from the ash of rice husks, and vegetable oils and resins. Previously, we took a look at a concept tyre that uses a liquid tread to repair itself and a recyclable rubber

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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