Dandelion used for tires as a raw material
As you all know, rubber is used in tires for cars and bicycles. What do you think is attracting attention as a raw material for rubber? That is dandelion.
Rubber can be divided into natural rubber made from the sap of rubber trees that grow in Southeast Asia, and synthetic rubber made from petroleum. The production of natural rubber is biased toward Southeast Asia, and the risk of supply shortage due to plague has been pointed out. In addition, since synthetic rubber is made from petroleum, it is concerned that it will have a large environmental impact.
Various materials have been considered as alternatives to rubber trees, and in recent years, the Russian dandelion has been drawing attention. Russian dandelion is a dandelion native to Uzbekistan, which contains the same ingredients as rubber trees in its roots. As it cannot only be used as a raw material for rubber but also grow in temperate regions, it has the advantage that it is easier to cultivate than rubber trees that grow only in the tropics.
The major tire manufacturers around the world have been conducting researches on rubber production using Russian dandelions, and Continental, a German tire manufacturer, is particularly making effort. The company has established a laboratory named “Taraxagum Lab Anklam” in Anklam, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, and presented it to the public in 2019.
In the laboratory, research is being conducted on an efficient extraction process of raw materials from Russian dandelions as an alternative raw material for rubber trees. If the research shows positive results, the Russian dandelion will be adopted as a raw material for tires within 10 years. Since 2011 when the project started, Continental has invested more than €2 billion (approx. 230 billion yen). No other tire manufacturer has made so much investment in the industrialization of dandelion rubber.
“Taraxagum Lab Anklam” is supported by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and is going to advance the development in cooperation with local farmers while utilizing farmland. Tires made from dandelions may be put to practical use soon.