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Bridgestone Tire to Study Natural Raw Rubber Alternative

Guayule (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Guayule (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Bridgestone Corporation, a global tire manufacturer in Tokyo, Japan unveiled plans today for a research project in the U.S. to develop a new commercially viable, renewable source of tire-quality natural rubber. The project aims to harness the cultivation of guayule — pronounced why-YOU-lee — as an alternative to hevea trees, the current source of almost all commercial rubber production.

Guayule (Parthenium argentatum) is a native shrub to the U.S. desert Southwest and northern Mexico. The plant produces natural rubber in its bark and roots, with almost identical qualities as the natural rubber harvested from hevea trees. Guayule is also free of the proteins found in hevea-based rubber that cause many of the allergic reactions to latex gloves.

Bridgestone’s interest in guayule is driven by the need to keep up with an increasing worldwide demand for tires, while the limited tropical regions needed to grow hevea have largely been exploited. The company has already participated in research in 1988-91 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on extracting rubber for tires from guayule biomass.

Bridgestone will carry out the new guayule project in the U.S. southwest where it is now looking for land to establish a pilot farm and construct a rubber process research center. A research team of agricultural scientists, engineers, and process technicians are expected to study the agronomic and processing technologies needed to produce tire-grade rubber in adequate quantities for manufacturing.

The company expects to settle on a location, establish the research farm, and begin construction of the research center later in 2012. The facility is expected to be operational in 2014, with trial guayule rubber production beginning in 2015.

Read more: Process Devised for Custom-Made Composite Materials

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