Boffins are hoping to revolutionise the tyre world by manufacturing the rubber using – DANDELIONS.
Rubber extracted from the plant has been proven by scientists to be of the same quality as that from its cousin the rubber tree.
A team of researchers are now building the first ever pilot system to extract vast quantities of dandelion rubber for making tyres.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Germany has teamed up with tyre giant Continental
It is hoped they can develop the production process over the next five years so Continental can manufacture tyres from the dandelion rubber on a large scale.
The first prototype test tyres made with blends from dandelion rubber are scheduled to be tested on public roads over the next few years.
And unlike conventional rubber, which is imported from sub-tropical countries, dandelion rubber could be cultivated and grown in Europe – slashing costs.
Prof. Dr. Rainer Fischer, head of institute at IME in Aachen, said: “Through the most modern cultivation methods and optimization of systems technology, we have succeeded in manufacturing high-grade natural rubber from dandelions – in the laboratory.
“The time is now right to move this technology from the pilot project scale to the industrial scale.
“We have found an expert partner in Continental, with whom we now want to create tyres that are ready for production.”
Tyres are big business, with Continental making more than 100 million each year.
The dandelion breakthrough could revolutionise the industry with the plant able to be grown on land which isn’t normally suitable for agricultural crops.
Only the Russian variant of the dandelion can be used as it is the one type which features large quantities of rubber within its white latex sap.
Dandelions are less vulnerable to pests than the rubber tree and its vegetation lasts just one year and can be harvested immediately.
Nikolai Setzer, Continental MD, added: “We are investing in this highly promising materials development and production project because we are certain that in this way we can further improve our tyre production over the long term.
“It is because the rubber extraction from the dandelion root is markedly less affected by weather than the rubber obtained from the rubber tree.
“Based on its agricultural modesty, it holds entirely new potential – especially for cropland that is lying fallow today.
“Since we can grow it in much closer proximity to our production sites, we can further reduce both the environmental impact as well as our logistics costs by a substantial margin.
“This development project impressively demonstrates that, with regard to material development, we have not reached the end of our potential.”