Dimona Silica Industries Ltd.´s got it, and tire makers want it.
"It" is precipitated silica, produced in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. The company-based in Beer-Sheba, Israel, and 60-percent owned by the Russian investment firm Altek-has opened a 500 kilogram/day pilot plant to produce batches for testing in tire treads.
The new pilot plant, along with another that opened in 2004, is a step toward full-scale manufacturing. Dimona is building a facility in the Negev that will have the capacity to produce 40,000 metric tons of silica a year, and 35,000 tons of precipitated calcium carbonate used in plastics.
And because of the firm´s unique location and production system, it has a cost advantage that has attracted the interest of a number of tire manufacturers, according to Dimona Marketing Manager Irina Tsyganova.
She discussed the project during the Rubber Division meeting in Cincinnati, where Dimona had an exhibit at the Mini Expo.
Dimona generates its Dimosil-brand precipitated silica from porcellanite, a waste byproduct of phosphate mining. It is abundant and easily accessible in the Negev, Tsyganova said, and contains about 40-percent active silicon dioxide. Processing the material takes fewer steps than the common practice, which starts with sea sand refinement.
The huge amount of porcellanite in the Negev-enough reserves to produce Dimosil for 200 years, according to the company-means Dimona can scale up the facility to 200,000 tons of capacity if needed.
Tsyganova said the facility has a closed production cycle that eliminates pollution, and Dimona is building a power plant at the site that will help it cut operational costs. The plant is located near the Red and Mediterranean seas, giving it particularly good access to tire manufacturers in Europe and Asia.
Dimona provides silica that fits many needs by tire makers, Tsyganova said. Besides conventional grades, Dimosil can be produced with increased surface reactive ability, high dispersive properties, low surface area and high dispersive ability; and for sidewalls, carcas and wire belt applications.