Work on its ‘Taraxagum – Dandelion Rubber Tires’ project has won Continental both the Innovation and the Green Award at Automechanika 2016. Maria Hanczuch from the Continental Business Development for Passenger and Light Truck Tires business unit accepted the award at the Frankfurt show on behalf of the tyre maker.
“We are delighted to receive these accolades,” said Hanczuch. “Our Taraxagum project demonstrates one aspect of the material development involved in the tyres of the future. We are working both on improving our products’ technical performance and on making the tyre compound and its production process significantly more sustainable.”
This is the latest in a string of awards; the institutes and companies involved in the project have already received a number of internationally-recognised prizes and awards for the advances they’ve made. In 2014, the project received the Green Tec Award and in 2015 the research team was awarded the Joseph von Fraunhofer prize from the Fraunhofer Society.
With Taraxagum – Continental’s name for the rubber it sources from the roots of the Russian dandelion – the company aims to reduce the distance required to ship rubber to its factories, thereby significantly reducing CO2 emissions. As the plants can be cultivated in Northern and Western Europe, long transportation routes can be avoided. These routes previously had to cover the distance from the ‘rubber belt’ in the tropics 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Continental also hopes to become slightly less dependent on developments within the global rubber market.
Continental began work on the development of Taraxagum in collaboration with the IME Fraunhofer Institute, Münster, the Julius Kühn Institute, Quedlinburg, and plant breeding expert ESKUSA, Parkstetten, around five years ago. Russian dandelion is cultivated in a way that enables long-term per-hectare production in similar quantities to the traditional rubber tree, the Hevea brasiliensis. Continental has also developed new production methods that allow the natural rubber required for the production of tyres and other rubber products to be extracted from the plant’s latex sap.
Trial batches of winter car tyres, commercial vehicle tyres and engine mounts have already been produced using Taraxagum rubber. According to Continental, evaluations carried out at the corporation’s own test sites show that the dandelion rubber performs at least as well as traditionally extracted natural rubber in equivalent standard products.
To facilitate the Taraxagum project, a new research facility is being built in Anklam, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for the production of rubber from dandelion latex sap. Continental plans to invest around €35 million in this new location by 2021.
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