Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., and its grant partners for “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—an American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule,” have made several advancements in their initiative to apply guayule-based rubber in tire production.
Guayule (why-yoo-lee) is a desert scrub native to Mexico and the American southwest that has the capability to produce natural rubber. As part of the company’s leading involvement with the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, Cooper is now even closer to meeting its goal of producing a concept tire by mid-2017 with all natural and synthetic rubber replaced by guayule-based polymers. Cooper has completed a number of tire builds, replacing Hevea and synthetic rubber with guayule-based rubber in various components, and then testing each build for overall performance, the tiremaker said.
“We have nearly finished our work on developing guayule-based tire components and have tested these tires to assure a full performance evaluation,” said Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s senior vice president of global research and development. “The results are highly promising. We have proven that we can replace traditional polymers with guayule in certain components, and that tires made from these components perform equal to conventional tires. We are optimizing the use of guayule formulations to develop not only a full guayule tire, but we will also evaluate guayule blends in certain components where an advantage has been shown to exist.”
Another grant consortium partner, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture has also completed the most extensive irrigation study ever done on guayule. The study, which began in 2012, compared surface irrigation and subsurface drip irrigation on guayule production. The study found that drip irrigation provided an enormous benefit over other irrigation techniques.
Grant partner Clemson University is responsible for studying the environmental impacts of the entire tire life cycle using guayule versus traditional Hevea rubber in tire production. The university announced that it has completed early work on the development of a computer-based Life Cycle Analysis program for guayule-based tires.
“A comprehensive sustainability analysis encompasses all three pillars of sustainability: economics, environment, and society. Our work shows that a domestic source of rubber can be sustainable; we have to minimize water consumption in agriculture and optimize energy usage and co-products throughout the supply chain,” said Amy Landis, Ph.D., Thomas F. Hash ’69 Endowed Chair and Professor, Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, Clemson University.