Bridgestone begins producing guayule-sourced natural rubber
The ribbon was cut on Bridgestone Americas’ brand new Biorubber Process Research Center on the morning of 22 September, and with the official opening of this Mesa, Arizona-based 10 acre (4 hectare) research and innovation centre, the company moves a further step forward in its efforts to extract natural rubber from guayule.
At the opening ceremony, Bridgestone said it expects to have preliminary guayule rubber samples produced at the site within the next month. “The opening of the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center is a significant milestone in Bridgestone’s journey to develop a new and domestic source of natural rubber,” said Bill Niaura, Bridgestone Americas’ director of new business development. “Through this innovation project and others like it, Bridgestone is positioning itself to meet the constant, anticipated growth in demand for natural rubber, while also moving closer to achieving its long-term vision of manufacturing products from raw materials that are fully renewable and sustainable by 2050.”
Home to more than 30 researchers and technicians, the Biorubber Process Research Center site includes an 8,300 square foot (771 square metre) single-story office and laboratory building; a four-platform, 3,500 square foot (325 square metre) shrub prep building; a 5,500 square foot (511 square metre), two-level process building for rubber extraction, co-product and solvent recycling; and a 3,100 square foot (288 square metre) mechanical and electrical building.
The guayule project is being executed by subsidiary company Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, and the Biorubber Process Research Center will be supplied with biomass for rubber production from guayule grown on Bridgestone’s 281 acre (114 hectare) Agro Operations Research Farm in nearby Eloy, Arizona. The Agro Operations site includes two greenhouses, an equipment storage building and a main research and laboratory building. Bridgestone employs a team of scientists at the farm who research the genetic improvement of guayule, optimising agronomic practices for growing the crop and supplying biomass for the Biorubber Process Research Center.
Guayule rubber produced at the Biorubber Process Research Center will be sent to Bridgestone’s US technical centre in Akron, Ohio and its Japanese technical centre in Tokyo. At those facilities, engineers will work to optimise rubber performance within Bridgestone’s product line and explore the full potential for next-generation tyres.