Apollo Vredestein participating in rubber-alternative research
Apollo Vredestein has announced its involvement in research into sources of natural rubber as a partner in the EU-PEARLS project. The objective of the project is to find a European alternative to Hevea brasiliensis-derived natural rubber. The tyre maker notes that replacing natural rubber with a synthetic variant is not always a practical consideration for tyre makers, and with demand for natural rubber continuing to rise, other sources are becoming increasingly attractive. The threat to rubber trees posed by diseases such as South American Leaf Blight provides additional incentive to find an alternative.
EU-PEARLS is a joint project between a total of ten European research organisations and industrial partners; Apollo Vredestein is the sole tyre manufacturer that has signed up. The project’s main focus is on research into two plants, the Russian dandelion and the desert plant guayule. The goal is to make it possible to produce natural rubber in Europe. Finding suitable conditions for the growth of these plants within our region, optimising the yield and quality of the natural rubber, and designing the ideal extraction methods are all important components of the research. The ultimate aim is an optimised use of the raw material in finished products, including tyres.
Another advantage these two new sources offer is that the natural rubber extracted from them doesn’t contain proteins, which can cause allergic reactions. A reported one to six per cent of the world’s population is currently allergic to natural rubber from the rubber tree.
According to the tyre maker, initial studies show that both the Russian dandelion and guayule are a good alternative to the rubber tree in terms of their properties. Guayule is already used to produce biomass on a large scale in Spain. The rubber from the Russian dandelion appears to be easier to extract, however. In the coming period, research will therefore focus on optimising the growth development and growth speed of the Russian dandelion so as to increase its content of natural rubber available for extraction.
Research results will be presented in September 2012 during the closing conference of the EU-PEARLS project in Wageningen, the Netherlands.