US grant for Cooper guayule research
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Cooper Tire & Rubber and its consortium partners a US$6.9 million grant for research into the guayule plant. The grant covers a four year period and Cooper says research its research focus is on developing enhanced manufacturing processes, testing and utilising guayule natural rubber for use in tyres, and evaluating the remaining guayule plant biomass as a source of bio-fuel for the transportation industry.
The grant was a result of the 2 July joint announcement by the USDA, US Navy and the US Department of Energy that it would offer $30 million in funding, to match private investment, for the research and development into technologies and processes for alternative renewable fuels and bio-based products. The bio-fuels produced from these projects are expected to reduce US dependence on imported fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 per cent compared to fossil fuels. Each proposed project must integrate science and engineering research in three technical areas: feedstock development, bio-fuel and bio-based products development, and bio-fuels development analysis.
Cooper Tire will lead a consortium of companies, universities and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA to develop guayule technology for future commercialisation opportunities within the tyre industry. Yulex Corporation, a specialist in guayule crop science and renewable products made from guayule, will manufacture the material. Other important components of this work include collaborative projects to advance agronomic practices, development of genetic and genomic information, and a life cycle analysis, which will document the anticipated impact of a bio-material and bio-energy industry upon the American Southwest.
“We are honoured to be recognised by the USDA as an innovative company with the potential to develop a greener and more sustainable tire technology,” said Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s vice-president of Global Technology. “By partnering with the consortium members, we will significantly decrease the time necessary to bring this technology to commercialisation for the industry. The goal of this effort is to decrease our reliance on off-shore raw materials while creating new jobs for American workers.”
Yulex CEO Jeff Martin said “we are excited to be partnering with Cooper Tire and the other consortium members to support the tyre industry. This grant represents not only an outstanding opportunity to advance guayule science and technology, but also offers the opportunity to speed up the process of large scale utilisation of guayule in the overall marketplace.”