HILTON HEAD, S.C.—Alternative sources of rubber are no longer in the realm of speculation, but now are viable technologies for tire manufacturing, according to speakers at the Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference in Hilton Head April 19-21.
Taraxacum kok-saghyz, more commonly called TKS or Russian dandelions, is often spoken of as an experimental source of natural rubber, but in fact it has been cultivated for close to a century, according to Daniel Swiger, president and CEO of Kultevat Inc.
"We need a domestic source of natural rubber," Swiger said. "TKS is a very good, high-molecular-weight rubber."
NR is so important that the world can't afford to limit its production to one plant in one part of the world, according to Swiger. "One of these days, leaf blight is going to hit Hevea," he said. "Some believe it, some don't. I think it probably will hit in some point in time."
TKS was part of Thomas Edison's research into alternative sources of natural rubber, which also included guayule, goldenrod and milkweed, according to Swiger. In the 1930s, the Soviets began extensive research and development into TKS, which originated in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, he said.
TKS and guayule were both the subject of intense research during the Emergency Rubber Project of World War II, Swiger said. Some 25,000 acres of guayule in the Southwest and 7,000 acres of TKS throughout the rest of the U.S. were cultivated during that time, he said.
Today, St. Louis-based Kultevat is poised to offer high-quality TKS rubber in commercial amounts, according to Swiger. The company now is growing TKS in 42 states, and has both a patented NR extraction process and a capital-efficient, bolt-on manufacturing plan, he said.