KOBE, Japan—Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has developed a highly purified form of natural rubber, called "UPNR" (ultra pure natural rubber), that it claims offers superior performance in tires in both fuel efficiency and wear resistance.
Sumitomo said it plans to start using the material, which it has patented in Japan, in selected tire lines scheduled for launch in 2014 and beyond.
The company said it is using its proprietary "4D Nano Design" technology—developed to help control the purity of synthetic materials—to filter impurities from the NR the company uses in its tires, a process it claims helps to increase the bonding between rubber molecules and carbon at the microscopic level, yielding a rubber compound that contributes to improved tire fuel-efficiency performance.
SRI claims using its 4D Nano Design technology in NR processing helps overcome a problem that surfaced in early attempts to remove impurities—the process also can remove the components that protect rubber molecules, making the rubber more prone to deterioration when exposed to heat.
In announcing the development, Sumitomo noted that NR accounts for nearly 29 percent (by mass) of the material used in tires.
To accelerate its ability to use the material, SRI said it is building a facility in Thailand to process UNPR.