SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

October 11, 2012

Dandelion – Alternative Rubber


THOMAS ONDREY PLAIN DEALER PHOTOS Ohio State University horticulture professor Matthew Kleinhenz looks over dandelion samples being grown in a warehouse in Wooster.

W E E D S    G E T    A    B O U N C E

Researchers look at dandelions as alternative to natural rubber

By Sarah Jane Tribble | THE PLAIN DEALER

WOOSTER, Ohio — Within a decade, you could be driving on tires made from dandelions. ¶ Researchers at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster are working with industry giants including Bridgestone Corp. and Ford Motor Co. to harvest rubber from a relative of those plants that home gardeners love to hate.

“A weed is only a plant growing where you didn’t want it,” said Katrina Cornish, an Ohio research scholar at the Wooster center. “If it’s growing where you want it, it becomes a beautiful flower.”

Cornish is part of a team of researchers who began breeding and cultivating Russian dandelions about six years ago. The plants in Wooster look similar to the backyard-variety dandelion, with broad, leafy bases and yellow flowers. But they are not the same.

The Russian species — known scientifically as Taraxacum koksaghyz, or TKShave long, thick roots that have the right mix of rubber polymers, proteins and fatty acids in them that make up a natural latex. Break open a TKS root, roll the sticky, milky white cream that oozes out in your palm, let it dry, and it will bounce like a ball.

Cornish calls it Buckeye Gold.

Rubber produced from dandelions at the Wooster center

The Russians first discovered the potential for harvesting rubber from the dandelions in the 1920s. When natural rubber was in limited supply during World War II, because of demand for airplane and truck tires and restricted imports, the U.S. began exploring dandelions as an alternative source. That research was abandoned after the war.

Today, tires are made from a combination of synthetic rubber derived from petroleum and natural rubber harvested from trees. Natural rubber provides greater resistance than synthetic and is in high demand as a raw material in tires and other products. But the supply of natural rubber is largely dependent on small rubber-tree farms in Thai-land, Indonesia and Malaysia, which is problematic.

“It has a lot of volatility with regard to price and even supply at times,” said Greg Bowman, manager of the advanced technology group at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. based in Findlay, Ohio. “There were times in 2008 where there was a shortage.”

Natural-rubber prices jumped in 2008 and in 2011 when supplies waned, according to trade publications . Bryan Kinnamon, director of Ohio State University’s industry liaison office, which does commercialization for the agricultural research center, said natural-rubber prices were about 50 cents a pound in 2003 but have “oscillated up and down since.”

Prices peaked in February 2011 at $3 a pound and hover at about $1.50 a pound now, Kinnamon said.

“Every year since 2004, there has been a shortage,” Kinnamon said.

With higher prices during the past decade and shortages on the horizon, tire conferences such as iTec held recently at Cleveland’s I-X Center feature sessions on alternative sources of natural rubber, said Dave Zielasko, publisher of Rubber & Plastic News and head organizer of the conference.

The biannual conference, which drew more than 3,000 attendees from 20 countries, included sessions on alternative natural-rubber sources.

“This is a big issue with tire manufacturers,” Zielasko said.

(Jan’s comment:         

This is amazing and what a wonderful boon it could be to our auto industry.    It is the rubber polymers, proteins and fatty acids in them that make up a natural latex, which concerns me.  Because I consume  rather a lot of dandelion greens on a daily basis.    I think I am going to have to determine whether or not there is a similar make-up in our own local dandelions that I buy in the market as rubber polymers and natural latex would I am quite sure not be acceptable to our human gut.

Homeopathic formulae have long used dandelion root  combined with “milk Thistle” [sillymarin] as an aid to the liver and kidney for cleansing and/or swollen legs and such.   Health-food stores and on-line sites like Swanson’s and Puritan’s Pride, etc  have these products but my preference is whole food any time I can have a choice.    This article states that this is a different variety, but I think it bears a further look.   Jan)


1 Comment »

  1. RUBBER TO PTFE BONDING manufacturer in india
    Loved this article. Would surely take the advantage.

    Comment by galagali — September 19, 2013 @ 1:57 am | Reply

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