TUCKER, Ga.—Dow Chemical Co. is partnering with Lehigh Technologies Inc. in a project focused on modifying rubber materials for use in tires.
The two companies are combining proprietary technologies to modify the rubber particles used in sustainable tire production, a Lehigh spokeswoman said. The program combines Dow's expertise in polymer chemistry with Lehigh's knowledge in sustainable rubber compound development and testing, she said.
“Our primary customer base, the world's leading tire companies, has been requesting advanced technologies to enable increased sustainable content in tires,” said Alan Barton, CEO of Lehigh Technologies. “The Dow-Lehigh research program is part of a broader technology program at Lehigh, aimed at providing sustainable solutions without compromise.”
The two companies have been discussing and planning the project for several months, Barton said, while conducting some scientific tests during that span. After determining that the idea had strong possibilities, they decided recently to formally adopt the project.
In June, the company officially launched a campaign to eventually put a billion tires made with the sustainable materials on the road, further cutting the carbon footprint of tires.
Currently, Barton said, there are more than 100 million tires containing Lehigh's micronized rubber powder in circulation.
“We passed the 100 million mark this year,” he said. “In order to get to 1 billion we're working with customers on adjusting their formulations.” The program with Dow is another approach aimed at getting people to convert from oil-based products to other materials.
Lehigh's proprietary manufacturing process takes tire and other post-industrial rubber material and “up-cycles” it into micron-scale, high-quality powders that are compatible with formulations provided by customers, making it easy to integrate into new or existing products, according to the firm.
It said that the powders help companies achieve sustainability goals while helping to manage the costs of non-renewable raw materials. Tests are being conducted at both Dow and Lehigh.
From Dow's vantage point, the collaboration is an opportunity for it to leverage its latex polymer technology for a green cause, according to Colin Gouveia, general manager for Dow Construction Chemicals.
The company's goals for 2015 “include a focus on technologies that are advantaged by sustainable chemistry, and this project is anchored in that same commitment,” he said.
It's too early to tell how long it will take to complete the project with Dow, Barton said, “but if we're getting what we expect it should be long lasting.”