Partnerships between tire companies and biotechnology firms have led to the development world’s first ‘green’ tires made from sugar.
Though the new bio-based tires are first produced as prototypes, motorists may be driving on them within the next few years.
The key raw materials for the ‘green’ tires are obtained from sugar rather than petroleum or rubber trees.
The development appears in the current edition of Chemical and Engineering News (C and EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world”s largest scientific society.
C and EN Senior Business Editor Melody M. Bomgardner explained that tight supplies and high prices for the natural rubber and synthetic rubber used to make tires — almost 1 billion annually worldwide —are fostering the drive toward renewable, sustainable sources for raw materials.
Petroleum, for instance, is the traditional source for raw materials needed to make tires, with a single tire requiring almost 7 gallons of oil. But changes in oil-refining practices have reduced supplies of those raw materials.
The article describes how companies like Goodyear and Michelin have teamed up with biotechnology firms to genetically engineer microbes that produce the key raw materials for rubber from sugar.
Goodyear’s partner Genencor, for example, is making microbes that mimic rubber trees’ natural processes to make latex rubber. Goodyear has already produced prototype tires with rubber made from sugar.
Bomgardner explained that companies hope sugar will buffer them against future shortages of natural and synthetic ingredients, with “sweet” tires making a debut within 3-5 years.
The development has been in the current edition of Chemical and Engineering News.