POTSDAM, Germany—Researchers in Germany have developed a polyisoprene synthetic rubber that achieves 30 to 50 percent less abrasion than natural rubber, according to the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Polymer Research IAP.
The abrasion characteristics of the new rubber make it ideal for use in truck tire treads, for which SR up to now has been unsuitable, Fraunhofer said in a press release.
"The treads of (truck) tires are manufactured primarily from natural rubber that comes from rubber trees and to date has demonstrated the best abrasion characteristics," the release said.
However, the need to find alternative rubber sources has increased recently as the supply security of NR is doubtful, due to fungi that have decimated the Brazilian rubber industry and could, at some point, appear in Southeast Asia.
To address this situation, researchers at Fraunhofer have developed Biskya—named for the German abbreviation for biometric synthetic rubber—which demonstrates optimized abrasion behavior.
Scientists began development of Biskya by studying dandelion rubber, according to Fraunhofer.
"Like the rubber from rubber trees, 95 percent of dandelion rubber consists of polyisoprene," the institute said. Because dandelions generate in three months compared with seven years for Hevea trees, it was ideal for research, it said.
"After they had identified the organic components that were important to abrasion behavior, the researchers at Fraunhofer IAP synthesized the Biskya rubber out of functionalized polyisoprene with high microstructural purity and the respective biomolecules," Fraunhofer said.
Fraunhofer scientists investigated the characteristics of Biskya and used new kinds of silica to optimize performance, according to the press release.
In those tests, tires with Biskya treads were compared to conventional natural rubber tires. Whereas the NR tires at the end of testing had lost 850 grams of weight and 0.94 millimeters of tread, the Biskya tires lost only 600 grams of weight and 0.47 millimeters of tread, it said.
As the next step, Fraunhofer plans to further optimize the Biskya rubber, concentrating on the composition and proportion of the organic components, according to Ulrich Wendler, leader of the project at the Fraunhofer Pilot Plant Center for Polymer Synthesis and Processing PAZ in Schkopau, Germany.
"The synthetic rubber can be produced on an industrial scale, using existing plants and equipment," Wendler said. "This means that the synthetic rubber offers an excellent alternative to natural rubber—including the domain of high-performance truck tires."
The researchers are scheduled to present their findings April 4 at the annual conference of the German Rubber Society, East.