Bridgestone Americas, Inc. is part of a public-private consortium that received a $15 million federal grant to further develop a domestic source of natural rubber from the guayule plant.
The five-year grant, part of a program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helps Bridgestone continue to investigate and develop rubber from guayule along with researchers from The University of Arizona, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, New Mexico State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
“We are extremely excited to work with these universities and the USDA as we reinforce our efforts to develop a new, sustainable, domestic source of natural rubber using guayule,” said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer for Bridgestone Americas. “This research aligns with our corporate commitment to helping ensure a healthy environment for current and future generations.”
The goal of the grant is to scale-up to profitable production of the plant. In turn, it helps Bridgestone achieve its aim of using 100% sustainable materials in its tires by 2050, which is part of its Global Sustainable Procurement Procedure Policy.
Bridgestone has led the initiative into guayule agriculture and rubber and coproduct extraction technologies. In 2012, Bridgestone invested in its Biorubber Process Research Center in Mesa, Arizona, and a 300-acre research facility for plant breeding and agronomy in Eloy, Arizona. The company has also recruited grower participation for feedstock (crop) production.
Recently, Bridgestone Americas announced a partnership with NRGene, a genomic big data solutions company, to research how the company’s guayule breeding program in the U.S. can be enhanced. The company also teamed up with Versalis, a polymer and elastomer producer, to develop and deploy a comprehensive technology package to commercialize guayule in the agricultural, sustainable-rubber and renewable-chemical sectors.
Guayule, a drought and heat-tolerant crop, produces natural rubber almost identical to that harvested from hevea rubber trees in Southeast Asia. For Bridgestone Americas, the plant is a valuable source for tire-grade rubber in commercial applications.