HAMILTON, Ontario—A team of chemists at Canada's McMaster University discovered what the university is calling an "innovative way" to break down the rubber used in tires.
The process, described as "reductive silylation," could lead to new recycling methods that have so far proved to be expensive, difficult and largely inefficient, McMaster said.
In a paper published by the journal Green Chemistry, Michael Brook, lead author and a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster, claims the process efficiently breaks down the polymeric oils by breaking the sulfur-to-sulfur bond in tire rubber.
"The chemistry of the tire is very complex and does not lend itself to degradation—for good reason. … The properties that make tires so durable and stable on the road also make them exceptionally difficult to break down and recycle," he said.
Brook likened the structure to a piece of fishnet.
"We have found a way to cut all the horizontal lines so instead of having a net, you now have a large number of ropes, which can be isolated and reprocessed much more easily," he explained.In a video posted on the McMaster website, Brook likened the process to "molecular scissors" that can cut through the sulfur bonds.