FINDLAY, Ohio—Cooper Tire & Rubber Company said it will join with PanAridus L.L.C. to become consortium partners on the previously-announced $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative grant toward development of guayule plant-based polymers for use in tire manufacturing.
The BRDI is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy to promote development and analysis of feed stocks, biofuels and bio-based products.
Cooper Tire, PanAridus, and other consortium partners, including Arizona State University and the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, are conducting research efforts aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of guayule solid rubber as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant's residual biomass for biofuel applications.
Consortium members hope to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for petroleum-based synthetics and tropical-based natural rubber currently used in the manufacture of tires. If successful, the growing and processing of guayule would create new jobs in the U.S., according to the companies.
Cooper Tire is leading the overall grant program along with developing all related tire technology. PanAridus replaces Yulex Corp. on the grant team, assuming Yulex's responsibilities as the primary manufacturer of the material.
PanAridus will take the lead in developing commercial processes to produce guayule natural rubber for the tire industry. ARS is leading the genomic and agronomic development of guayule, while Arizona State officials are evaluating the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown.
"PanAridus brings significant expertise related to guayule seed and agronomic technology that will be extremely beneficial as the consortium continues progress toward our objectives," said Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper's vice president of Global Research and Development.
"Their expanding capability to produce guayule based natural rubber will provide a reliable source of materials for our tire technology related programs. The cooperative spirit and passion for this initiative within PanAridus will be instrumental in development of commercial production processes and continued improvement of tire grade guayule."
"Our steadfast focus on guayule genetics and agronomics heightens the likelihood of success for our grant partners, all of whom understand the link between competing favorably on a cost basis in the commodity based marketplace and commercialization," said Mike Fraley, founder and CEO of PanAridus.