BERWYN, Pa.—Trinseo S.A. is developing its neodymium BR (Nd-BR) capability in a bid to supply the tire market more effectively, according to Samer al Jabi, the new head of the firm's synthetic rubber business unit as of October 2015.
The focal point is, according to Al-Jabi, collaboration with customers to develop rubbers with improved processing characteristics while also preserving performance attributes, such as low rolling resistance and effective abrasion.
Trinseo has increased long-term investments into rubber research and development for 2016. “Our product pipeline ranges from concept research to new experimental polymer grades,” said Al-Jabi.
An example is Trinseo's Nd-BR technology. In 2014, Trinseo said it was converting its nickel butadiene rubber (Ni-BR) production train in Schkopau, Germany, to manufacture Nd-BR.
“Though we are a newcomer in Nd-BR technology, we decided to tackle different polymer viscosity versions,” Al-Jabi said.
Trinseo expects its new ND-BR to meet the “increasingly strict and demanding market requirements and standards that are now imposed on the processing and performance balance of products in these rubber industries.”
In adding Nd-BR capability, Trinseo is implementing proprietary technology for production of standard as well as functionalized high-cis Nd-BR, Al-Jabi said.
He declined to give further details on the time and scale of the Nd-BR production plans, but said one of the most important trends in the tire and rubber industry was the need for more sustainable products.
Consumers worldwide are shifting toward green tires with lower rolling resistance, which results in increased energy efficiency and decreased fuel costs and carbon emissions, Al-Jabi said.
According to the executive, manufacturers are in response increasing production of green tires that minimize rolling resistance without sacrificing safety—or wet grip—and performance—high abrasion resistance.
Trinseo introduced two new additions to its range of Sprintan-branded solution styrene butadiene rubber in 2014 to meet this demand for green tires. The grades of functionalized SSBR allow a balance of low rolling resistance and high abrasion resistance, and reduced stiffness at low temperatures. Among other benefits, the feature can boost snow grip potential in winter tread applications.
According to Al-Jabi, the new SSBR grades, which can partially, replace traditional rubber grades, can technically reduce fuel consumption by up to three percent.
“Over a typical life span of a set of tires—about 45,000 km—that could mean savings of up to 80 liters of fuel compared to traditional tires,” he said.
Trinseo has also developed a new oil-extended SSBR that offers several improved properties. It enables tire producers to move up the boundaries of the triangle of rubber properties in all dimensions and previously unreachable levels.
In the production of the grade, Trinseo has employed a new technology to manufacture multi-functionalized polymers.
This process, explained Al-Jabi, enhances the interaction of the rubber polymers with silica and carbon black fillers, therefore limiting the hysteretic energy loss and improving filler distribution in the rubber.
Together, these effects decrease the heat build-up and rolling resistance in tires, helping tire makers produce more suitable products.
Al-Jabi said Trinseo also employs a proprietary batch process which gives it more control over the modification process and therefore allows it to produce tailor-made products for its customer base and their differing needs.